Brooklyn '76

A Novel

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Pub Date 20 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 19 Feb 2024

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In the heart of Bensonhurst, an Italian American family struggles to survive one explosive day-the nation's Bicentennial.

The Agnello family wakes Bicentennial morning to the sound of fireworks. Outside their apartment, block party preparations are already underway. Paulie, husband and father, has been out on strike with his union and is desperate to make ends meet. Dee, wife and mother, is overprotective of her children and a stern judge of character, particularly when it comes to Paulie. Tony, the dutiful elder son who is fast coming of age, now obsesses over his first girlfriend and stands ready to defy his parents to spend the Fourth with her. Alex, the younger son, still sees the world through innocent eyes, a perspective unlikely to survive the day.

As the neighborhood celebrates, a string of public missteps drives the family apart, forcing each Agnello to face their own insecurities and regrets. At nightfall, the fireworks extravaganza draws the scattered family back together-but celebration soon turns into tragedy, and one life is left hanging in the balance. Funny, dark, and unsentimental, Brooklyn '76 is an urgent family drama set against the backdrop of a working-class neighborhood-and a country-on the brink of transformation.

In the heart of Bensonhurst, an Italian American family struggles to survive one explosive day-the nation's Bicentennial.

The Agnello family wakes Bicentennial morning to the sound of fireworks...

A Note From the Publisher

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Advance Praise

"Ausiello's piercing debut chronicles one long day in the lives of a down-on-its-luck working-class Italian-American family living in a tight Bensonhurst apartment on July 4, 1976, the date of the nation's much ballyhooed bicentennial . . . Precise, evocative description brings the milieu-and the fraught dynamics-to vivid life . . . An accomplished, impressive debut." -BookLife Reviews

"A master of foreshadowing . . . I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys family dramas with sharp edges and a vein of humor running through them. Ausiello is a fresh, intriguing voice on the literary scene." -Manhattan Book Review

"A story as strong in its portraits of siblings and families on the cusp of change as it is in capturing a national milieu (that comes home to roost) in the community and culture of Brooklyn, New York . . . In Brooklyn '76, firecrackers and explosions both dominate the story and serve as a backdrop of metaphors for the equally powerful surges in relationships that are tested by legal and illegal choices . . . readers seeking books steeped in the atmospheres of Brooklyn in the late 1970s and an Italian-American family whose history faces new modern challenges will find Brooklyn '76 an evocative story that brings these times and characters to vivid life." -Midwest Book Review

"Literal and emotional fireworks explode throughout the pages of this original and rousing novel." -Walter Cummins, author of Local Music and Seeking Authenticity

"Ausiello's piercing debut chronicles one long day in the lives of a down-on-its-luck working-class Italian-American family living in a tight Bensonhurst apartment on July 4, 1976, the date of the...

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Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9798988581000
PRICE $17.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Thank you to South Allen Street Press and NetGalley for this digital ARC of Brooklyn '76 by Anthony Ausiello.

I loved this life-in-a-day, nostalgia-laden account of the July 4th. 1976 American bicentennial celebrations on a single block in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It's told through the experiences of one family - Dee (mother), Paulie (father), and Tony and Alex (teen and pre-teen sons) as well as touching on the lives of their extended family, friends, and neighbors.

This feels like a story written partially from memory and recollection, a love letter to the author's childhood in Brooklyn. It's not universally happy - there's a lot of strife and stress wrapped up in that one day, filtering in from the real world and real-life experiences. Familial tension, childhood-based trauma informing adult behaviors, financial woes, gambling all make an appearance and have an impact but the overall feeling I got from this novel is one of a time and lifestyle loved and missed.

I'd love to see someone making a film of this book. It wouldn't be a blockbuster but it would be very enjoyable.

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I enjoyed the different family viewpoints in this novel whilst also being shown the American history of '76 in the background of the family's lives.

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A fantastic story that takes place in one day, America's bicentennial. It's a good day, it's a bad day, and it's a story that had me captivated the whole way. Told by each of four family members living in Brooklyn, you get four perspectives of the same big day. I loved it.

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There’s alot to like here! Brooklyn ‘76 oozes 70s vibes in this slice-of-life novel, following an Italian-American family of four at a block party to celebrate the bicentennial. The witty banter and relatable internal dialogue are reminiscent of A Christmas Story. But on this hot summer day, Paulie, Dee, and their 2 sons are under pressure all for their own reasons- and their lives will never be the same again.

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This novel takes place in one day and follows the Agnello family as they prepare for the Bicentennial. From the teenager who wishes to spend the day with his girlfriend to the younger son who still has an innocence about him but will soon learn how cruel the world can be, to their parents struggling to maintain a household for them while trying to make ends meet.

An interesting take on an Italian-American family. I loved how each story seamlessly transitioned from one family member to the next as the day progressed. Weaving an intricate tapestry of their lives in a matter of hours was brilliantly accomplished. I really got a sense of how strong this family seemed on the outside, with all their hidden secrets and regrets threatening to tear them apart.

A somewhat dark yet honest look at a family as they struggle with new emotions, money problems, coming-of-age, and tragedy.
Wonderful read.

The publisher provided ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Taking place over the day the United States celebrated its 200th birthday Brooklyn ‘76 follows the Agnello family through their day, which goes quite differently for all of them. Paulie, husband and father, has been out of work because of a strike and is contemplating on how to make ends meet; Dee, overprotective mother and judgy wife, just wants to make it through the day with her children intact- she knows of too many mothers whose sons have lost their hands on Independence Day in years past and it won’t be her boys. Tony, 14, wants to spend the day with his girlfriend who has been gone for ten days and will risk the wrath of his parents should they find out he defied them. Then there’s 9 year old Alex who has been looking forward to this day for what feels like forever. All of the Agnellos start their day together but over the next 16 hours July 4, 1976 will play out differently for all of them.
Anthony Ausiello has written a character driven drama that is moving in all the right ways. The amount of insight he gives us into all 4 of the Agnellos makes this book truly something special and it gives a certain depth to the story, elevating it from mere fiction to something even deeper. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think perhaps this is a recount of his July 4th in 1976.
This book won’t be for everyone. While it’s short, it isn’t fast paced and is mostly told in the narrative (which I think works perfectly). Every few paragraphs jump to another of the Agnello family, sometimes repeating a scene from a different character’s vantage (again, it works perfectly).
The character development is superb, but not in the way you might expect. 16 hours doesn’t give a lot of time for growth, but Mr. Ausiello has given us real people, not just fictional characters, and the day they’ve had will stick with you for a long time to come. Thank you to NetGalley and South Allen Street Press for an advanced copy of this. Brooklyn ‘76 hits the shelves on February 20th.

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In the heart of Brooklyn, the Agnello family experiences the tumultuous landscape of Bicentennial morning, marked by the crackle of fireworks and the anticipation of a neighborhood block party. The backdrop of celebration, however, conceals the cracks in the Agnellos’ lives, exacerbated by Paulie’s desperate struggle amidst a union strike and Dee’s unyielding protectiveness over her children, particularly when it comes to her husband.

“Brooklyn ’76” unfolds as a captivating family drama, with Tony, the elder son, navigating the complexities of adolescence and budding romance, ready to challenge his parents for independence. It also navigates the origin story of the parents with Chapter 17 talking about Paulie and Johnny, his best friend, I believe the moment that Paulie also had his life changed leading him to where he finds himself on the bicentennial day. When we learn about Dee in Chapter 23, it gives you the background of what makes her hardened and maybe sad. Meanwhile, Alex, the younger son, views the world through innocent eyes, a perspective that is poised to be shattered by the end of the day.

The author skillfully captures the urgency of the family’s struggles, drawing readers into the intricacies of each character’s journey. And although their parts in Brooklyn ’76 are not in-depth, the characters of Zizi and Richie, deserve honorable mentions.

The story culminates in a fireworks extravaganza that, instead of sealing joyous memories, transforms into a tragic event, leaving one life hanging in the balance.

With a perfect blend of wit and gravity, this urgent and thought-provoking tale is a must-read for those seeking a compelling narrative that resonates long after the final page.

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