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Da Gama, Cary Grant, and the Election of 1934
Charles Reis Felix; George Monteiro, pref.

Portuguese in the Americas Series

2005 • 160 pp. 6 x 9"
Fiction & Literature / Mass Fiction /Political Fictio

$20.00 Paperback, 978-0-9722561-8-6

A comedic portrait of Portuguese American life during the Great Depression

Da Gama, Cary Grant, and the Election of 1934 is the story of an election for mayor in a Massachusetts mill town in 1934 as seen through the eyes of a ten-year-old Portuguese boy, Seraphin. The incumbent, a Yankee, is challenged by candidates from five different ethnic groups–Irish, French Canadian, Polish, Portuguese, and Jewish. A portrait of each candidate is subtly drawn and we meet campaign workers like Teddy, who has enlisted to help secure a teaching position for his daughter, and Jimmy, a numbers runner who proudly passes out cards announcing his appointment as Assistant Campaign Manager, North End.

But the novel is more than just the story of an election. The specter of the Depression hovers over every scene. Laura, Seraphin’s big sister, describes her job as a fruit-store clerk in every excruciatingly painful detail. And the allure of America is always present for Seraphin in his desire and longing to lead an American life. America also affects the remarkable Secundo B. Alves, the Portuguese candidate. Secundo’s memories of the Azores are honest, authentic, and touching. But when he is defeated in the primary, he quickly bounces back as a supporter of the Frenchman’s candidacy and rewrites his Vasco da Gama imagery. Secundo is showing the adaptability it takes to succeed in America. Da Gama, Cary Grant, and the Election of 1934 is a valuable historical document and an artistic triumph.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

‘The Portuguese are the unknown people,’ declaims Secundo Alves. ‘To be Portuguese in America is to be a stone dropped in the middle of the ocean.’ Alves, one of Charles Reis Felix’s colorful and memorable characters, may be overstating the case, but not by much. And Reis Felix, in his novel of vignettes, brings the Portuguese to life with wit and humor, and above all, with an eye for telling detail that any American writer-of any ethnicity-should envy. This book captures the nature of immigrant New Bedford in a way that will make it relevant and entertaining reading for decades to come!”—Frank X. Gaspar, author of Leaving Pico

The cotton mills of New Bedford have long since followed its whaling fleet into oblivion. Gone the ugly labor disputes and turf wars that once dominated the region’s headlines. Dead the mill owners and operatives who spun gold from cotton. But by a literary miracle, not everyone who was witness to New Bedford’s decline and fall has forgotten it. In his wonderful new novel, the octogenarian writer (and New Bedford native) Charles Reis Felix tells what it was like to be young and proud and poor and Portuguese in the city of 1934, while a quartet of ethnic Americans (including the Yankee incumbent) duke it out in a wild mayoral election. Generously observed, vividly drawn, and beautifully realized, the fictional city that he author evokes is a New Bedford to celebrate for all its faults-and to read about time and time again.”—Llewellyn Howland III, author of The New Bedford Yacht Club: A History

From the Book:

"Both comedic and comic, Da Gama, Cary Grant, and the Election of 1934 gives us a full and generous picture of a time and place that now exist because of words on a page, populated by individualized characters and characteristic incidents. . . . As in Ernest Hemingway's stories about Nick Adams in In Our Time or Sherwood Anderson's about George Willard in Winesburg, Ohio, the boy-hero of Felix's book goes though a series of episodes that serve to shape his understanding of the nature of the world. . ." -- "From the Preface" by George Monteiro, Emeritus Professor, Brown University

CHARLES REIS FELIX (1923 - 2017) was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of four children to Portuguese immigrant parents. He attended local public schools and graduated from New Bedford High in 1941. He studied at the University of Michigan from 1941-43, at which time he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After the war he received a B.A. in history from Stanford University, and became an elementary school teacher. He is married, with two grown children, and lives with his wife Barbara in a cabin among the redwoods of Northern California.

His first published book, Crossing the Sauer (Burford Books), an account of his experience as a combat infantryman in WWII, was hailed by Paul Fussell, author of The Great War and Modern Memory, as “one of the most honest, unforgettable memoirs of the war I’ve read.”

Felix published Through a Portagee Gate (U Massachusetts Dartmouth), a remarkably honest self-portrait and an endearing tribute to the author’s father, a Portuguese immigrant cobbler who came to America in 1915.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:01:15 -0500