Jay Wilkinson, Gretna resident and retired federal judge has written a book. And, what a book! He named it “A Lie Will Suffice!” The tantalizing title is a reminder from his maternal grandmother, Antonia “Lena, Nia”DiGiovanni Guinta who would say, “Why tell the truth when a lie will suffice?” or in Italian, “Picchi didi a verita quanna a farfantaria cia basta.”
The book will first be presented locally on Sunday, August 14 at 2 p.m. at Deutches Haus, 1700 Moss Street in New Orleans in the “Coming to America Lecture Series.”
The next weekend, there will be a book signing at Barnes & Noble, 1601 Westbank Expressway in Harvey on Saturday, August 20 from 1:00 until 3:00 p.m.
It all started in 2009 when the author’s mom, Ann Guinta Wilkinson showed up at his side door and said, “My people lied to me my whole life. Why did they have to lie to me so much? One day, you’re gonna write a book about my family, and it won’t be so pretty.”
Wilkinson was shocked to say the least since he knew that, “The older generation of my family, the generation before my mother’s, was closed-mouthed, secretive about the family history. They used subtle misrepresentations, omissions, sometimes out-and-out lies!”
“That was the beginning of 12 years of research and writing. I gathered up the family documents and photos. I dug into the public archives of newspaper articles (of which there were many more from the 1920s and 30s), arrest records, alien registration records, public court records, internet blogs and databases. I felt like a detective, finding one tidbit in the records that would lead me like a trail of bread crumbs to something else.
“What I found was utterly stunning to me. I was a sitting federal judge at the time. I could not understand how or why my own people, including my beloved grandparents and great-uncles and aunts, could BE this way. I wanted to understand them, so I studied history books, anthropological and sociological studies, cultural and political commentaries about Sicily and Sicilians of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.”
Wilkinson’s A Lie will Suffice, (A DiGiovanni Family History,) begins with his great grandfather, Gaetano DiGiovanni, who came to young manhood in San Cipirello, Sicily in the 1880s-90s. The grandson of a local Mafiosi, Don Randazzo, Gaetano, known by the Mafia alias Baiocco, followed the family business into the cattle rustling trade.
With Gaetano, Wilkinson follows his family back and forth between Italy and America weaving tales of their lives, loves, crimes and history for his readers to enjoy. Whether he is describing a young love elopement or murder, he tells a story that you just can’t put down. What was so shocking to Jay Wilkinson and perhaps will be to the public at large, was just a way of life and totally acceptable to the early DiGiovanni family tree.
Wilkinson went on to explain, “I don’t want you to think that the book is exclusively about crime, violence, hardship and tragedy. It also includes sweet love stories about romantic love, family love, love of children, love of God and country. Ultimately, I think it’s a story of progress and triumph over the burdens of history, culture and socioeconomic challenge.”
“What my DiGiovanni ancestors did, experienced and overcame all resulted in the success, safety and security that their progeny, the generations of my mother, myself and our children all enjoy and have accomplished.”
Jay Wilkinson was born in New Orleans, grew up in Terrytown and has lived most of his adult life in Gretna. He was an honors graduate of Christ the King Elementary School, Archbishop Shaw High School Class of 1973, the Louisiana State University School of Journalism and Tulane University Law School. He was a general assignment news reporter at The Times Picayune 1976-1978, a lawyer in New Orleans 1980-1995, and a United States Magistrate Judge at the federal trial court in New Orleans 1995-2020, when he retired. He has been married to his wife Susan “Sue” Fitzgerald (Blenk ‘73) for almost 47 years, has three grown children and four granddaughters.
The author is looking forward to meeting you at the two scheduled events:
Sunday, August 14 at 2 p.m. at Deutches Haus, 1700 Moss Street in New Orleans in the “Coming to America Lecture Series.”
Saturday, August 20 from 1:00 until 3:00 p.m., a book signing at Barnes & Noble, 1601 Westbank Expressway in Harvey.