Memoir Recalls Normal Side of Criminal Family

By Schatz, Robin D | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 12, 2010 | Go to article overview

Memoir Recalls Normal Side of Criminal Family


Schatz, Robin D, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Jennifer Mascia was 5 when the FBI came for her father. The feds couldn't arrest him because they didn't want to leave the little girl alone in the Irvine, Calif., condo.

"Are they arresting my Daddy?" Jennifer Mascia asked when her mother sped home with a friend.

"No, honey," the friend replied. "It's not real. They're making a movie."

It's an engaging start to Mascia's tender, wry, utterly depressing and stranger-than-fiction memoir, "Never Tell Our Business to Strangers." You'll have to wait a while before learning the true nature of charming, lovable Johnny Mascia's crimes, about his infidelities and addictions, his drug-dealing and his improbable romance with Eleanor, a Jewish schoolteacher and prison reformer who met him while he was behind bars and went on the lam with him after a parole violation.

After the arrest that opens the book, Johnny Mascia spent five months in jail in New York before being reunited with his family in Miami, where they stayed with Jennifer's wacky, sexy Aunt Rita, his partner in the cocaine trade.

Several years later, living in California again, Jennifer was so terrified by a silly chain letter, warning that all her secrets would be revealed if she didn't pass it on, that she confided in a friend about her father's incarcerations and then asked her mother why he served time before she was born. Eleanor said it was a "simple case of mistaken identity."

Hers was a mostly happy childhood, filled with dance recitals and drama classes. True, the family suffered drastic swings in fortune; there were extravagant shopping trips where they would "bust out" the credit cards; they made abrupt cross-country moves, stayed in cramped quarters with relatives and engaged in expletive-laced shouting matches. …

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