Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: This Family of Mine by Victoria Gotti

Okay.  I have to own up to a bit of a fascination for me, called the mafia.  Yes, this school teacher, lover of all things Jane Austen, and genius of old-school musicals has a fascination for organized crime.  Not just any organized crime.  I'm talking the Gambinos, the Gottis, the Sopranos (ok, so I do know the Sopranos are a fictional family, but thank you A&E for showing those episodes).  Let me back this up with a little explanation. 

When I first started graduate school about seven years ago, it was in a scholarship program in northern Idaho that was literally nine hours from my home, which made it impossible for me to go home over weekends or holidays.  One LONG Fourth of July weekend, I hit the local video store, since I would be trapped in a school-provided dorm room for much of that time, and decided to finally check out the famous trio of films known as The Godfather I, II, & III.  I was frightened, and more than a little appalled, but also strangely intrigued by my seven hours of mafia movie mania.  I finally understood all the cultural references!  Slightly inappropriate for the extremely conservative, calm family I was raised in, but oh so fascinating.

Several years later, I found the ever delightful Growing Up Gotti, which was a reality show about Victoria Gotti and her three teen sons.  Victoria is the daughter of the famous New York mob boss, John Gotti, who was the famous boss of the Gambino family.  His daughter and three sons were so engaging to watch, and all I could do was think about what they knew, thought, or felt about organized crime.  Honestly though, I loved their sense of family, their snarky bantering, and the large Italian dinners; I really just wanted to stop by, sit down, and have a Diet Coke and a chat.  Now you understand why I shrieked with delight when I found out Victoria Gotti had an autobiography.

Synopsis:  In this complex autobiography, Victoria Gotti opens her own life story with that of her father and mother and the troubled homes they came from.   Placed in a unique situation, as the daughter to the infamous, late John Gotti, and sister to brother John A. "Junior" Gotti, who also served time in prison, Victoria finally took to paper to defend her family.  Showing the troubled beginnings of both her parents, as well as her own impoverished youth, Victoria tells a story of a father who was part of a group of men who defended their community and took care of things themselves, rather than ever involving the authorities.   On the one hand, her father was this man who was generous, courageous, and enduring in his fight for the culture he was raised in, while on the other he had a nasty temper, was disengaged, and slightly narcissistic.   Victoria then tells how she met, married, and had her own family, built on a lie that was her own husband's involvement in organized crime, and her father's dislike for her now ex-husband.  Her own family of three sons was hard won, with a lengthy list of serious health conditions that should have left her without any children of her own.  Not only did Victoria have her three children, but also endured the hardship of family members in prison, the constant threat of losing her home, and her own career to consider under the harsh scrutiny of her given name.  Through all of these unique circumstances, Victoria's story shows itself as one of a major tell all, ready to be frank with a world that thought they knew the whole story already.

Review:  Victoria Gotti's story of her family growing up, and later marriage and family of her own, had me enthralled from the opening chapters of the book.  Not only could I not put it down until I had read every last page, but I also found myself understanding elements of her upbringing that I thought I would never be able to wrap my head around.  John Gotti is not painted to be some Mike Brady who walked in the door every night, ready to teach and moralize to his children.  He definitely was a strong father figure in their lives, but one that was tough, wouldn't take excuses, and was judge and jury in many cases that no one was privy to.  I got the sense that he protected his family and their way of life, but was the definite head over them all.  Victoria's own life story was gut-wrenching and had me cheering her on.  Through all of her problems, health and otherwise, her one desire was to be a mother.  She got her wish, but watched as her father was sent off to prison and later died of throat cancer, her younger brother "Junior" was sent to prison, and her own husband was shockingly sent to prison for his own criminal activity, but not before her marriage became volatile and she had proceeded to divorce the man her father had warned her about.

I really loved reading Victoria's story.  There is something so strangely wrong, yet empathetic about the mafia, with their family ideals and fight against the stereotypes of Italian-Americans leveled at them for generations.  As wrong as organized crime is, with its selfish control of monies earned in dishonest endeavors, and judge and jury for behaviors deemed unacceptable, there is also something fiercely protective about the mafia that tries to protect its own at whatever cost.  I think that Victoria is an amazing woman, with a definite strength to carry herself out of her family's infamous past, to raise three sons on her own, and to continue to struggle to provide for the shambles of a life her ex-husband left her in.  I can't say that we know to what extent Victoria really knew about her family's criminal activity, but it is obvious that she was a part of the culture enough to know that her father would protect her, and that her family was her most important asset.

Told like all autobiographies, this life story is one I think was well-written and that gives a personal inside look at an infamous family.  Personally, and irregardless of my own fascination with the mafia, I would recommend this autobiography as one that will tell a story of a culture and family that won't soon be forgotten.

*FTC Disclosure:  Review based off of a library copy of the book.


  1. I too have a fascination with the mafia. Thanks for the great review, I've been thinking about getting this one on kindle. You've convinced me to take the!

  2. Much as I don't care for the Mafia, I think they are definitely preferably to the gangs we have these days that have no code of ethics.

  3. There's definitely a strange fascination associated with the mafia and organized crime -- so much so that we have movies like "The Godfather" and all those classic lines! My dad had me sit and watch the first one with him as a teenager and, looking back, that was probably inappropriate for a 14-year-old girl, haha! But it was a "classic," and one he thought I should see.

    Glad you enjoyed Victoria Gotti's autobiography -- it does sound very interesting!