Never Tell Our Business to Strangers
By Jennifer Mascia
(Villard, Hardcover, 9780345505354, 400pp.)
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
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When Jennifer Mascia is five years old, the FBI comes for her father. At that moment Jenny realizes that her family isn’t exactly normal. What follows are months of confusion marked by visits with her father through thick glass, talking to him over a telephone attached to the wall. She and her mother crisscross the country, from California to New York to Miami and back again. When her father finally returns home, months later, his absence is never explained—and Jenny is told that the family has a new last name. It’s only much later that Jenny discovers that theirs was a life spent on the lam, trying to outrun the law.
Thus begins the story of Jennifer Mascia’s bizarre but strangely magical childhood. An only child, she revels in her parents’ intense love for her—and rides the highs and lows of their equally passionate arguments. They are a tight-knit band, never allowing many outsiders in. And then there are the oddities that Jenny notices only as she gets older: the fact that her father had two names before he went away—in public he was Frank, but at home her mother called him Johnny; the neat, hidden hole in the carpet where her parents keep all their cash. The family sees wild swings in wealth—one year they’re shopping for Chanel and Louis Vuitton at posh shopping centers in Los Angeles, the next they’re living in one room and subsisting on food stamps.
What have her parents done? What was the reason for her father’s incarceration so many years ago? When Jenny, at twenty-two, uncovers her father’s criminal record during an Internet search, still more questions are raised. By then he is dying of cancer, so she presses her mother for answers, eliciting the first in a series of reluctant admissions about her father’s criminal past. Before her mother dies, four years later, Jenny is made privy to one final, riveting confession, which sets her on a search for the truth her mother fought to conceal for so many years. As Jenny unravels her family’s dark secrets, she must confront the grisly legacy she has inherited and the hard truth that her parents are not—and have never been—who they claimed to be. In the face of unimaginable tragedy, Jenny will ultimately find an acceptance and understanding just as meaningful and powerful as her parents’ love.
In a memoir both raw and unwavering, Jennifer Mascia tells the amazing story of a life lived—unwittingly—with criminals. Full of great love and enormous loss, Never Tell Our Business to Strangers will captivate and enthrall, both with its unrelenting revelations and its honest, witty heart.
Jennifer Mascia graduated from Hunter College in 2001, and in 2007 she received an M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She has spent the past three years as the nightside news assistant on the Metro desk of The New York Times.
One year, Jennifer Mascia had to talk to her father through the thick Plexiglas of a prison visiting room. In another, she and her parents would go holiday shopping at the swankiest stores in the shopping mall. Host Scott Simon talks to Mascia about her book, Never Tell Our Business to Strangers, which recounts her father's life as a Mafia hitman and her mother's complicity in his crimes. More at NPR.org
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"With her intrepid reporting and unique voice, Jennifer Mascia breathes life into characters living on the fringe, people that most others ignore or try to forget: the druggies, the dealers, the scammers, the murderers and desperate ex-cons. The fact that they were part of her own loving family makes her story all the more remarkable and impossible to put down."— Helene Stapinski, author, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family
“With a keen journalist’s eye and a loving daughter’s heart, Jennifer Mascia has written an incredible true story of family secrets, lies, and, ultimately, forgiveness.”—Janice Erlbaum, author of Have You Found Her: A Memoir