Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Book Review: 'I Became An Elementary School Outlaw: A Memoir' by Frank Nappi

I Became An Elementary School Outlaw by Frank Nappi
‘One day at a time is the mantra to which I try to cling’

New York author Frank Nappi lives and teaches high school English and Creative Writing on Long Island. He made an auspicious literary debut in 2005 with his highly awarded novel ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY, a book so insightful about the military while at the same time demonstrating the polished skills of a very fine writer that it was apparent Frank Nappi was an important emerging American artist. Since that debut he has consistently added well-scribed successful novels, such as THE LEGEND OF MICKEY TUSSLER, SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN, NOBODY HAS TO KNOW, and WELCOME TO THE SHOW, each enhancing his status as a major literary figure. He now offers a memoir that sensitively reflects not only his life but also his commitment as an educator of note. 

Frank opens his warmly illuminating memoir with a sensitive account of his childhood: at age five, just prior to his entering kindergarten, he learns the harshness of life as his father’s occupation turns from a prominent position that of a potato chip truck driver and his mother’s anguish at the change alters his perception. He enters kindergarten and considers his classroom time traumatic, altering his outlook while continuing to explore his recollections. These early seeds begin to blossom as Frank advances, and it is the quality of his descriptive prose that impresses deeply: ‘Perhaps I’m on some path, traveling toward an epiphany, some grand understanding tied to my days as a child. Maybe a long, overdue meeting – a much needed heart to heart between fifty-one year-old Frank and little Frankie. Maybe settling his restlessness may help me with my own. He does seem to be trying to tell me something. Who knows? It may all be nothing. Still, I wonder. Are there really answers out there, somewhere in between Parkside Boulevard and Forest Avenue? Or is my excessive walking just nervous energy and these pop-up images nothing more than random blips scurrying across the face of my memory? I can’t be sure. It’s a lot to consider. But I do know one thing as the miles I travel continue to pile up. I can’t stop the memories from coming.’

Throughout this fine memoir Frank invites us into his world, his growth, his memoires, and his philosophy with such grace that his journey becomes our journey. ‘What I enjoy most about walking is the solitude. Even though my suburban, middle-class neighborhood is bristling with life – people biking, jogging, walking dogs—for the most part, everyone leaves me alone when our paths do cross. I appreciate that, since I am usually wrestling with some pretty weighty matters and do not wish to be interrupted. I love being outside. There is indeed something about the open sky and sun and trees that invigorates a tired soul.’

Every aspect of Frank Nappi’s life is reflected through his recollections of his elementary school experience and time, and in sharing these moments he grows – both in years, and in importance as a writer. This is a memorable novel and one of the most sensitive books of our time. Highly Recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

Order it on Amazon today.
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