Brooklyn Story

Brooklyn Story

by Suzanne Corso

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Overview

Perfectly evoking the sights and sounds of the summer of 1978 in Brooklyn, Suzanne Corso makes an acclaimed fiction debut with this powerful coming-of-age tale, told from an adult perspective, of family, best friends, first loves, and big dreams waiting to come true. . . .

Samantha Bonti is fifteen years old, half Jewish and half Italian, and hesitantly edging toward pure Brooklyn. She lives in Bensonhurst with her mother, Joan, a woman poisoned with cynicism and shackled by addictions; and with her Grandma Ruth, Samantha’s loudest and most opinionated source of encouragement. As flawed as they are, they are family. And this is home—a tight-knit community of ancestors and traditions, of controlling mobsters, compliant wives, and charismatic young guys willing to engage in anything illegal to get a shot at playing with the big boys. Yet Samantha has something that even her most simpatico girlfriend, Janice Caputo, doesn’t share—a desire to become a writer and to escape their insular, overcrowded little world and the destiny that is assumed for all of them.

Then comes Tony Kroon. He’s a gorgeous mobster wannabe, a Bensonhurst Adonis whose seductive charms Samantha finds irresistible—even when she knows she’s too smart to fall this deep . . . but Samantha soon finds herself swallowed up by dangerous circumstances that threaten to jeopardize more than her dreams. Grandma Ruth’s advice: Samantha had better write herself out of this story and into a new one, fast.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439190227
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 12/28/2010
Pages: 323
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Suzanne is the author of two feature film screenplays, has produced two documentaries, and written one children's book. She currently lives in New York City. This is her first novel.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Brooklyn Story includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Suzanne Corso. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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INTRODUCTION

Brooklyn Story is the engaging coming-of-age story about Samantha Bonti, a teenage girl growing up in 1970s Brooklyn. An aspiring writer with dreams to someday leave her Bensonhurst community and dysfunctional home life for a new life in Manhattan, Samantha struggles to stay true to herself when she begins a relationship with Anthony Kroon, a “Brooklyn Boy” trying to break into the Brooklyn mafia scene. The devilishly handsome Tony sweeps Samantha off her feet—and into his world of violence, lies, and crime. As her relationship with Tony grows increasingly volatile, Samantha struggles to stay true to her beliefs until her writing can finally pull her across the East River and away from her tumultuous past.


TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1. Brooklyn Story opens with a Sunnata Vagga quote about coming to peace with abuse by letting go of anger, which says, “Fury will never end fury, it will just ricochet on and on. Only putting it down will end such an abysmal state.” Do you agree with the passage’s message? Was Samantha able to truly let go of her anger and move on?

2. One of the recurring tropes throughout the story is crossing bridges, either physical or metaphorical. Can you think of any bridges you’ve had to cross in your own life? Could the transition from adolescence into adulthood, with all its trials, be considered one such universal bridge?

3. Samantha begins her story by stating, “Some people lived in the real world and others lived in Brooklyn.” Where do you think Samantha considers is the “real” world? Do you agree with her?

4. Early on in the novel, Samantha’s grandma instructs her to “Write yourself out of this story and into a better one” (pg. 30). Do you think Samantha accomplishes this by its end? Does leaving for Manhattan begin a completely new story for Sam, or does it start a new chapter in the same tale?

5. At one point, Samantha tells the reader that “Surviving takes its toll, but makes you strong, I learned” (p. 58.) Do you agree with her belief that survival fosters strength? Does surviving her ordeals make Samantha strong, or is she only able to survive due to an inherent strength she has, regardless of circumstance?

6. One of the main topics throughout the book is the influence neighborhoods have on their communities. Samantha remarks that “I couldn’t help thinking that all of us in Bensonhurst were a reflection of the neighborhood in one way or another” (p. 115.) Discuss the dynamic relationship neighborhoods and their residents have. How much does a neighborhood shape its people, and vice versa?

7. From gender roles to class status symbols, the effects of deeply rooted cultural and socioeconomic roles are prevalent throughout Brooklyn Story. Do you think such strict social systems are unique to urban communities or are they prevalent throughout other landscapes? Discuss.

8. Religious conflict between Samantha’s Catholic mom and Jewish grandmother arises throughout the novel, constantly creating tension at home. After both women pass away, they share a gravestone with both a cross and Star of David on it, which Samantha considers emblematic of their ever-clashing views. Do you agree with Sam’s viewpoint, or do you view the joint headstone differently, perhaps as a truce of sorts?

9. Samantha’s relationship with her troubled mother is diametrically different from the one she has with her grandmother. After reading about Samantha’s journey, who do you think had a greater influence on her actions, her mother or her grandmother? Discuss the ways both women shaped Samantha’s actions and beliefs.

10. In addition to the role models in her life, Samantha’s faith is an important anchor for her. She says, “The Blessed Mother’s hand in my life, I knew, was as real and as close to me as the ones of those dear to me in my daily life who touched me” (p. 150.) How much of her faith in herself and strength of character do you think she derives from her spiritual faith? Do you think she would have been able to find that strength to overcome all her adversities without such strong religious convictions?

11. On page 141, Samantha reflects on her relationship with Tony, saying “that was just how it was for me on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. The only thing that was completely in my control was my station in life.” Samantha placed a great emphasis on leaving the physical space of Brooklyn in order to change her station. Do you agree with her that physically leaving Brooklyn and crossing that bridge was the only way she could change her station? How much of that bridge between the two worlds was Samantha’s state of mind?

12. There are several instances of physical and emotional abuse, something Samantha feels very strongly about. After Tony hit her face into the dashboard, Samantha fumes to her best friend, Janice, about what gives men the idea that they can abuse women, to which Janice replies, “We do.” Do you agree with Janice that the women in the story perpetuate the men’s behavior by staying with them despite abusive acts? Explain why or why not.


ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB

1. Visit the author’s website: http://www.samcorproductions.com/index.html or www.suzannecorso.com.

2. Bring New York to you! Enjoy some quintessential New York treats like pizza, bagels, and New York-style cheesecake during your discussion.

3. Brooklyn and its rich cultural history play a prominent role in the novel. Learn about your hometown’s history, whether through internet searches or visiting your local library!


A CONVERSATION WITH SUZANNE CORSO

You opened the novel with a very moving Sunnata Vagga quote. How did you choose that specific passage to open Brooklyn Story? Is there a particular line from the passage that most resonates with you?

I came across it one day. I believe it was online and then I got “The Pocket Buddah” and to my surprise here was a quote that described my past and I knew from the moment I read it, it had to open my book. I felt as though it was written for me and I can only imagine how many other women felt the same way when they stumbled upon it.

Brooklyn Story is a partial parallel of your experiences growing up in Brooklyn. How much of your own life did you draw on to create Samantha’s story?

Plenty. I absorbed so much growing up in Brooklyn and was so privy to the goings-on and the individuals within my neighborhood that I would just create characters from that and just write. It was therapy to me and the writing became my salvation. Writing came to me at the most crucial time in my childhood. A time when there was no therapy or happy pills to keep you sane, I had my words and they have helped me through; tremendously to this day.

Did you find it challenging to separate your story from Samantha’s? If so, how did you maintain that separation?

YES! It was the hardest thing to do. Every time I sat down to write all I could think about was Suzanne instead of Samantha. It became hard to separate us, however this enabled me to draw upon my past even deeper and write things that I normally would not have. So, I think it was a blessing in disguise drawing so much from me as a person to infuse it into my character. I maintained the separation only when I would look up and see that the name Samantha was on the paper that I was typing, not mine.

You quote a variety of songs throughout Brooklyn Story. Are you a music fan, personally? If so, are your favorite artists similar to the ones Samantha connects with?

My mother was a Woodstock child. She loved the 70’s music and I was so young at the time, that was all I heard and I love it to this day so much. Every time I listen to 70s music my heart fills with joy as well as some sadness over a life I no longer have. For me it’s memories, both good and bad and yes, I love music. It is part of meditation for me, I think it’s one of the greatest silencers we have, just to listen to the music.


Throughout the novel, Samantha finds support and guidance from figures such as Mr. Wainright and Father Rinaldi. Did you have a similar mentor growing up? If so, who?

The truth, no. No one physical that is. My mentor would have the be the Blessed Mother. She guided me when no one else did. There were people here and there, but no one came close to her influence on me. When my mother was always falling apart, when my grandmother took ill and when I was being abused by my boyfriend and I had nowhere to turn. I would go to my spiritual guidance that always helped me through. Sometime the physical beings didn’t understand or get it or me for that matter. I think now they do, I sure hope.

If there is one lesson you’d like readers to take away from Samantha’s story, what would it be? Why?

To always pay attention to whom you are getting involved with. For me it was a man, for others it could be any relationship. I guess the bottom line for me would be, do not let any man abuse you. Abuse comes in many forms. It just sneaks up on you and by that time you are aware of it you so far engulfed in his world, you cannot escape. Abuse can be emotional, physical, mental, etc… Once they do it one time, they will definitely repeat it again, trust me. A man controlling you is not normal. You need to remove yourself from the situation and have faith. Faith will take you exactly where you are supposed to go. Trust the process, it never fails.

You’ve written a variety of works, from screenplays to a children’s book. How does writing an adult novel differ from the other projects? Did you find any challenges unique to the novel-writing process?

You know what is so funny and I highly doubt any author will admit this. I truly think everything I have written before has had no significant impact the way that Brooklyn Story does for me. It is my success, my peace with me. It is the greatest accomplishment for me as a writer. Revealing oneself in words and sharing with others in the desire to help is an achievement which is so great with love and a higher purpose. When I wrote poetry or children’s books I think it was just my stepping stone to get me where I am supposed to be today a novelist and a screenwriter. And no, I love the novel writing process the best. It is certainly for me the most rewarding because you can go on and on and never stop.

In Brooklyn Story, Samantha’s writing mentor, Mr. Wainright, quotes Gene Fowler’s description of the writing process as one where “All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead” (p. 122.) Samantha spends the novel “bleeding” into her work and pouring herself into her stories. If you had to choose, which piece from your own writing would you say you most connect with?

I am torn between my relationship with my mother and my boyfriend in Brooklyn Story. With my mother I could not get. She stayed inside my head as she remains to this day, my boyfriend is gone and so are his evil ways. There is the difference. Every chapter I wrote I would face different feelings. My most “bleeding” onto the page would have to be for her. It was very hard the life with her. I didn’t know which way to turn. I could have very easily taken her path of self destruction but instead chose another with the help of a higher power.

It says on your site, samcorproductions.com, that plans are currently underway for a movie adaptation of Brooklyn Story. How involved are you in the film’s production?

Very. I have written the screenplay and will be a producer on this project. I have wonderful people already attached. An Oscar winner and an Oscar nominee, so I am thrilled. It is now with some major studios and you know how that goes…we wait.

Besides the film, what future projects do you have planned?

Brooklyn Story(Over the Bridge) the sequel, which I am writing now and there very well may be book three. Depends how far Samantha wants to go! Also, a passion of mine is diamonds. I have completed a 3 part book series as well as a screenplay, which takes on one women’s journey into the harsh world of diamonds. I guess growing up poor influenced me to often wonder about possessions that were so far out of my reach such as diamonds, so I created stories surrounding them. I must admit I love these stories. Cannot wait for my future and all the writing I will do!

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Brooklyn Story 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For anyone who grew up in Bensonhurst in the 70's & 80's you have to read this book. Suzanne is right on point with the lifestyle of the neighborhood. She writes about what everyone dreams about and shows young women that through Samanta Bonti you can get out of a bad situation. Excellent job Suzanne!!!!
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
Brilliantly written and fascinating, Brooklyn Story is unique book that worms its way into your heart. I will never forget this heartfelt book and all of the emotions that it invokes in the reader. Suzanne's inspirational writing is pure and a breath of fresh air. I highly recommend this book to other readers.
MartaNYC More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a young woman who had the odds stacked against her and triumphed. Her voice is that of a survivor. All she had was her belief in herself and her faith. She will win your heart from the very first sentence to the very last. You will not be able to put the book down until you know what's to become of her. Then it leaves you wondering ... Where is Samantha Bonti today?
BookReviewsByMolly More than 1 year ago
Well, how do I start off this review? It's not a bad book. Let's start with that. It's different. This is a book about a time of poverty, and of longing for an escape to a better life. A book about mobs and gangsters. Definitely not the style of book that I would normally pick. But, as always, I feel every book deserves a chance, and then an opinion formed. This book is wonderfully researched. The depth of the story lies in the way the author created a real to life feel to the story. A time period during which a mobster has a woman and he controls her, even abuses her. VERY emotional on that end. The characters are as deep and complex as the plot, created a gripping novel. So, in conclusion, while not a terrible book, it is still not my favorite. There were some things about the book, like it's not my style of plot and the abusive situations weren't my favorite, but over all, it is one that I would suggest you try. It's deserving of 4 stars for the complexity and the depth the author uses. I will be looking for other books by this author in the future to see what other talent she holds.
MikeDraper More than 1 year ago
In August, 1978, Samantha Sonti, is fifteen-years-old. She lives in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn with the dream of some day becoming a writer and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to become a success in Manhattan. Samantha, "Sam" is half-Jewish, half-Catholic in a neighborhood that is predominantly Catholics of Italian heritage. She is sometimes shunned in this Italian neighborhood. Fortunately, as she begins high school, she meets Janice Caputo, a senior at the school. Janice is street savvy and becomes Sam's best friend. At the feast of Santa Rosalia, mixed with the sounds of the elevated subway and the sizzle and aroma of sausage and peppers, Janice introduces Sam to a twenty-year-old named Tony Kroon. Kroon is also of mixed hertitage, being Dutch-Italian. He's a muscular construction worker, very handsome and has blond hair. Sam becomes infatuated with Tony and thinks that she's met her dream man. She writes about her experiences in the manuscript she is wonking on and feels a happiness unlike anything she's felt before. On the other hand, she is conscientious with Tony because of her sick mother and the fact that she and her mother live on Sam's grandmother's social security and Sam's mother's welfare checks. Although happy in her relationship with Tony, Tony is controlling and wanting to advance their romance to a degree that Sam isn't ready for. She creates boundaries and demands respect. The novel tells the story of their relationship and Tony's Italian friends who are obviously doing illegal things. When Tony begins spending large amounts of money on Sam, she is concerned about where the money came from. In a touching story, we observe Tony change from controlling to abusive and what the result is with Sam. She is a courageous person with dreams that won't be dimmed. The story is well told with excellent dialogue. Sam's descriptions of her Brooklyn neighborhood make it easy for the reader to picture what the setting must be like. This is an important novel that should be placed on the shelves of shelters that help abused women. This is a debut novel from an author with great promise.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s 1978 and fifteen year old Samantha Bonti is living in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in a shabby apartment with her ailing mother and grandmother. Though her grandmother is loving and kind to Samantha, her mother, a prisoner of addiction and ill health, is constantly berating and maligning her daughter to no obvious effect. When Samantha¿s older friend Janice introduces the young girl to twenty year old Tony Kroon, a local who is part of the ¿Brooklyn Boys¿ crew, Sam¿s life is changed forever. Soon she¿s living the high life of expensive gifts, hot cars and exclusive clubs, but it all comes with a hefty price tag. Before she even realizes what¿s happened, things begin to take a sinister turn. Though her relationship with Tony goes from smooth to rocky in the blink of an eye, Sam still has dreams of becoming a writer and moving across the bridge to Manhattan, dreams that may perish if she continues to be Tony¿s girl. As Sam grows into a young woman, she must navigate through the rough waters of Tony¿s possessiveness, violence and disregard. Though her mother and grandmother constantly tell her Tony is trouble, it¿s only when Sam begins to see him through newly clear eyes that she discovers a man unlike any she has ever known, and must decide whether to remain the girlfriend of a small time mobster or to attempt to realize her dreams of becoming famous across the water. In this realistically gritty portrayal of a young girl caught up in a dangerous relationship, Suzanne Corso brings 1970s Brooklyn into fast and furious relief, and shares Samantha Bonti¿s heartbreak and joy as she attempts to make a better life for herself.This is going to be a tough book to review, because although it¿s not a memoir, it¿s based upon the real life circumstances of the author¿s past. This causes a problem for me because I wasn¿t a huge fan of the book, but by making critical comments on it, it feels like I¿m judging the life of a person and not just the story between the pages. The book¿s curious melding of fact and fiction present me with a unique problem in giving it a fair review, but I¿ll do my best to explain how I felt without trying to alienate or offend the author whose life story this book reflects.Sam is a bright girl with dreams, but though she dreams of a better life, she¿s soon invested in a pedestrian and controlling relationship with a wannabe gangster who treats her like a piece of property. There were times when she did mentally rebel over the way Tony treated her, but she never seemed to let those thoughts move into action. I also found it a little off-putting that Sam was only fifteen years old when when she began to date a twenty year old man. I know that this sort of thing happens, but having a daughter this age, it really stuck an unpleasant chord and sort of nauseated me. I also was also frustrated by the repetitive way that Sam reacted like a deer in the headlights every time her so-called great catch acted abusive. Thinking back, it¿s clear to see that Sam was in way over her head, but with only the other girls in her neighborhood (who were all in the same situation) to look to for advice, Sam never really had a chance.There was a lot of talk about how smart Sam was in regards to her writing, but I guess it was all book smarts and not street smarts. She continually acted rather foolishly for most of the story, caught up in the wash of a baby mobster's bad behavior. Though every adult in her life tells her that she should get away from Tony, Sam continued to be naive and trusting of a man who was just no good for her. A lot of the time she came off as a bit backward and seemed to have some underlying self-esteem issues that halted her progress when it came to leaving Tony. I also didn¿t like that she constantly made excuses for his behavior, even when no excuse could have sufficed, and it was bothersome that she kept changing her behavior and attitude to model the type of behavior that Tony demands. As Sam gets more and more i
ReviewsbyMolly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, how do I start off this review? It's not a bad book. Let's start with that. It's different. This is a book about a time of poverty, and of longing for an escape to a better life. A book about mobs and gangsters. Definitely not the style of book that I would normally pick. But, as always, I feel every book deserves a chance, and then an opinion formed. This book is wonderfully researched. The depth of the story lies in the way the author created a real to life feel to the story. A time period during which a mobster has a woman and he controls her, even abuses her. VERY emotional on that end. The characters are as deep and complex as the plot, created a gripping novel. So, in conclusion, while not a terrible book, it is still not my favorite. There were some things about the book, like it's not my style of plot and the abusive situations weren't my favorite, but over all, it is one that I would suggest you try. It's deserving of 4 stars for the complexity and the depth the author uses. I will be looking for other books by this author in the future to see what other talent she holds.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book.
LhKS More than 1 year ago
Entertaining and easy to read. This book will not take you long to read and that is good because you won't want to put it down. I enjoyed this book and recommended it to several people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sparklenurse More than 1 year ago
This was a fabulous book. Great debut novel. Besides the content, she really creates a suspense that keeps one engrossed. Having grown up with many characters like those in the book, being a former new Yorker......the book was just incredible. I felt like this was the emotional sequal to Saturday Night Fever. Having graduated high school in 1977, and growing up in New York, we were all exposed to this lifestyle. It reveals the vulnerability of young girls growing up in that era. Great writer, loved the book, I couldn't put it Down!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The idea was good but it ended up coming off very contrived. Complete lack of editing too - issues with continuity popped up several times and lots of subjects were brought up out of nowhere, then dropped completely. "I hadn't seen Tony since he dropped me off" when the story clearly says she took the subway home by herself after their last date. Father Rinaldi in the church - he didn't give her the money, Janice did, so what did he put in her hand? Things like that were rampant and distracting. The bridge metaphor was *way* overdone.
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Cullen0114 More than 1 year ago
After seeing the great book cover and reading the inside jacket, I wanted to like this book, but sadly, I did not. For her first novel, my main problem were the dialogues between her and her friend, her boyfriend and most egregious, her priest. In every chapter it seemed forced and painfully stereotypical of "New York" talk. It made me cringe. The main character's mother is so oddly fragmented and under developed, leaving me wanting to know more about this very troubled figure and her impact on her daughter. The amateurish dialogue was written so poorly that it made me wonder, where in the publishing of this book was her editor? The story was lost on me through all of this and although I finished it, I felt this was a book that needed major rewrites and maybe should have gone right to paperback. I applaud anyone on their first try on a novel, but I feel the editor really let her down to allow this to go to press.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the summer of 1978, fifteen year old Samantha Bonti of Bensonhurst dreams of becoming a writer living on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Being half-Jewish and with no father in the household since her Italian dad abandoned her and her mom, Sam is treated as a pariah by the Italian Catholic neighbors. Her Jewish mother Joan is filled with rage at humanity including her daughter and alcohol fuels her bitterness; while Grandma Ruth is her cheerleader encouraging Sam to go for it. Sam's BFF is fellow outcast Janice Caputo who loathes her heritage that she sees as stifling crap in which males thrive to be the next great gangster. Sam's world spins out of control when she meets half-Sicilian, half-Dutch Tony Kroon, a mobster in training. She falls in love with him as she believes he understands her dual heritage. However, Tony warns her to never question his work. Her mom normally ignores her but tells her to dump him as he is no good; Grandma Ruth tells her bubelah to drop him before she loses her dream and becomes her mother's clone. This is an entertaining character study of a teen seeking to belong while also dreaming of escaping to that other island across the water. Sam makes the tale work as readers will dream a little dream with her (paraphrasing Mama Cass) while also wondering whether she will cross the East River to truly go after her desires or remain in Brooklyn with Tony who climbs the ladder of his chosen vocation. Harriet Klausner