Synopsis of a novel by Patricia Vaccarino
Young Italian girl Cookie Colangelo and black boy Herman Lynch explore the heart of racial prejudice in working-class Yonkers circa 1969-71. Small-time drug dealer and troublemaker Concetta Mary Bernadette Colangelo is a tough Cookie and an unlikely heroine. Her mother, Kitty Colangelo, is one helluva sexy schizophrenic and her father, Johnny Colangelo is a jazz musician living a secret life in the jazz clubs and studios of New York City. The Italian girls of Yonkers don’t like Cookie because she’s too white. Being a good girl has gotten Cookie nowhere and now she’s become an indomitable force to reckon with, one who leaves no prisoners as she cuts a mighty swath through the city of Yonkers. I’m a gangster, Cookie said to herself. And no one’s going to mess with me.
Cookie’s relationship with Herman Lynch began the same as any other star-crossed lovers. Everywhere she went, she kept bumping into him. Down The End, on the wall at Untermyer Park, in Getty Square and oddly enough, at the Yonkers Carnegie Library, Herman Lynch turned up everywhere. Born with a harelip, Herman Lynch is a black B-boy, a natural dancer, who has had no formal dance training, and lives close to the Schlobohm Housing Projects. At the behest of his grandmother, Herman works at the Yonkers Carnegie Library in Getty Square. The other black boys don’t like him and think he’s not black enough.
Prior to meeting Herman Lynch, Cookie had no experience with black people except for Mrs. Kerry, her first teacher in kindergarten. Someone had told Cookie that if she touched Mrs. Kerry she would turn black. Cookie could not remember who told her that. Her parents? Her parents’ friends? The other kids in the class? She thought about it for awhile and it made her scared of Mrs. Kerry. As soon as she came home from school, once or twice, she flew in through the front door and had checked the mirror to see if she had turned black. It became a game. Every time she came home from school, she headed straight to the bathroom. She peered into the mirror and studied her face from many angles and looked down at her hands. She had not turned black.
YONKERS Yonkers! is rich with history and exacting detail. The Vietnam war has divided the country, Richard Nixon is in the White House and activists are marching in the streets. The story of Cookie Colangelo and Herman Lynch is told against the backdrop of the music of the times from Woodstock to the deaths of Blind Owl Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. A chief leitmotif through YONKERS Yonkers! is the metaphor and imagery of the owl. More than anything, Cookie wanted to meet Blind Owl Alan Wilson, the lead guitarist for the blues-rock band Canned Heat. She thinks the Blind Owl will understand her the way no one else can, and she is devastated when he dies.
There are surprising revelations, including the true identity of Herman Lynch’s grandmother, and the mysterious protection provided to Herman Lynch and Cookie Colangelo by Louie Santamassino. No one was sure how Louie Santamassino got his money or what he did for a living, but there was always the certainty that Louie Santamassino was looking out for them. It was kind of like having a weird uncle as a guardian angel. Everyone accuses Herman and Cookie of being a romantic item to the point that they are cajoled and bullied until violence erupts in a heart-wrenching attack against Herman Lynch. While Cookie and Herman are inextricably linked and as close as two people can be, they are not sexually lovers, and yet their story is one of the greatest romances of all times.
The entire manuscript for YONKERS Yonkers! has been completed and is available upon request.
Patricia Vaccarino has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, speeches, Web content, marketing collateral, and six books. In her spare time, she trains in ballet, enjoys hiking, biking, gardening and cooking authentic Italian food. She lives in downtown Seattle close to the landmark Pike Place Market. She has another home on the Pacific coast in Manzanita, Oregon, where a herd of Elk frequently visit her property.