Synopsis of a novel by Patricia Vaccarino
Something terrible has happened to Cookie Colangelo and she’s not talking about it. Cookie has stopped caring about anyone, even her little sister Donny, who needs her more than ever because their parents are no help at all. Cookie’s mother, Kitty Colangelo, is one helluva sexy schizophrenic; her father, Johnny Colangelo, is a musician who is living a secret life in the jazz clubs and studios of New York City. Being a good girl has gotten Cookie nowhere, so she’s become a small-time drug dealer, a troublemaker, and an indomitable force to reckon with, one who will take no prisoners as she cuts a mighty swath through the city of Yonkers. I’m a gangster, Cookie says to herself. And no one’s going to mess with me.
Cookie is going down the wrong path until shy black boy Herman Lynch comes into her life. Everywhere Cookie goes, she keeps bumping into Herman. Down The End, on the wall at Untermyer Park, in Getty Square and at the Yonkers Carnegie Library. Born with a harelip, Herman Lynch is a black B-boy, a natural dancer, who has had no formal dance training. He lives near the Schlobohm Housing Projects. The other black boys don’t like Herman and think he’s not black enough. The Italian girls of Yonkers don’t like Cookie, saying she’s too white. Together, Cookie and Herman explore the heart of racial prejudice in working-class Yonkers circa 1969-71.
Before she met Herman Lynch, Cookie had no experience with black people except for Mrs. Kerry, her kindergarten teacher. Someone had warned Cookie that if she touched Mrs. Kerry, she would turn black. Cookie thought about that for awhile and it made her scared of Mrs. Kerry. As soon as she came home from school, she flew in through the front door and checked the bathroom 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, peered into the mirror, then 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 throughout 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.
Cookie Colangelo turns out to be an unlikely heroine. Surprising revelations include the true identity of Herman Lynch’s grandmother, and the mysterious protection provided to Herman Lynch and Cookie Colangelo by the mysterious 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 he was looking out for them. It was kind of like having a weird uncle as their 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. Although Cookie and Herman are inextricably linked and as close as two people can be, they are not sexually lovers, and yet their story is a testament to the highest form of love.
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.