September 18, 2014

Made It Moment: Joe Chiba

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:05 am

Summer In Italy

It’s been a while since we’ve had a love story on the blog, and this is an unusual sort of one. In this age of genealogical research, and long lost relatives being found, author Joe Chiba weaves a family love story, of falling in love with one’s heritage and homeland. But his Made It Moment expands even beyond that…all the way to the world wide web, where Joe realized just how large the tapestry he is now part of as a writer can be.

Joe Chiba

I began my journey on the road to becoming an author in 2008, when something wonderful happened that changed everything for me as a writer. But to understand it all, we need to go back to 1976. It was the summer, and thirteen-year-old, twin Italian cousins, John Mastrogiulio and Joseph Mastrogiulio, made their first visit to my family’s home in Queens, New York. Before that blistering July day, I had never heard of them. The next day, they were gone, back to Italy, and out of our lives forever. Or so we had thought.. The truth was, the brothers did not return to Italy, but remained in Brooklyn, New York, secretly hidden from us for reasons unclear even to this day. But that did not stop Destiny from allowing us to find each other once again. It was thirty-two years later, in 2008, that Cousin John located my family in Queens. This was approximately one year after my father’s death, when John had found a forgotten letter written to him and his brother many years earlier by my father. The family reunion that followed sounded a chord in me, the writer in me, and it was enough to get me going on an idea for a story. I wrote the factual bits of the reunion with my cousins in a letter to a good friend of mine in California. That friend suggested I turn the story into a book, and I agreed. But much more had to be done before that could happen.

I had to travel to Italy. Being reunited with my Italian cousins motivated me to do just that, and to embrace my Italian heritage. I fell in love with Italy during my first visit in the spring of 2009. And I began a writer’s journey, eating and drinking and writing my way through the country, writing about everything and anything that I was absorbing, about this rich and wonderful culture I had been missing out on for so many years. I knew I had to write and publish my story after seeing Italy with my own eyes, hearing it with my own ears, and tasting it with my own lips. I turned the true-to-life reunion and my experience in Italy into a fictional story about a man in search of a long-lost cousin, whom he believes is in Italy. That is how Summer in Italy was born.

And although I knew the story needed to be published for readers to share in my joy, it still took about five years before I saw the dream turn into a reality. In the months of putting the book together with Oak Tree Press, I worried about this and worried about that. Probably not unlike many other writers being published for the first time. I knew it was happening, that I would soon see my book’s cover, with the animated version of that lemon tree tunnel my wife and I marveled at in a garden in Sorrento, Italy. Now it was on the internet where others would see it, too. And yet, still I did not realize the impact it was having on me. Not until my wife and I sat down in front of the computer screen, went to our account, and ordered Summer in Italy along with an Andrea Bocelli CD.

Andrea Bocelli! Doesn’t everyone in the world know him? My silly, little book of an adventure romance about Destiny was for sale in the same venue where millions of people shop for Andrea Bocelli’s music. Me and Andrea Bocelli! How could this be? That’s when it hit me. That was my moment. I immediately realized that my silly, little book wasn’t all that silly after all. It was something, a real something out there for the world to see. And if I could be in the same circle as Andrea Bocelli (well, not exactly in his circle, but you know what I mean), then I had made it! I didn’t care if my book would sell one copy (the one to me and my wife) or a million copies. I never cared. I wrote my book from my heart, because I believed it was a story that needed to be told. And now it was out there. I had made it into a moment. Maybe a small one, to get crazy excited about my book being on along with music from super celebrities like Andrea Bocelli. But it was still a moment. And when the package from Amazon arrived and my wife opened it, a feeling of utter elation swept over me. I saw my book sitting on top of that Andrea Bocelli CD. I am no super celebrity, but my book is out there. And that’s all that counts.

Joe Chiba was born in Queens, New York, into a large and loving Italian family. He spent his youth playing stickball in the street and soprano horn in his neighborhood drum & bugle corps. After Joe received a B.A. from Albright College in Pennsylvania, he moved to Japan to teach English and explore the exotic Orient. Summer in Italy is Joe’s first novel, which has won the 2013 Oak Tree Press Romance/Timeless Love Award. Joe lives in Honolulu with his Japanese wife, Sakura.


  1. Congratulations, Joe! Your book sounds wonderful. My Dad was born in Italy and didn’t return to his home town until he was 81. My daughters and I traveled with him and it was an amazing journey! All the best to you!

    Comment by Connie di Marco — September 18, 2014 @ 11:16 am

  2. What an inspirational journey, Joe! Thank you for sharing :)

    Comment by Windy Lynn Harris — September 18, 2014 @ 11:28 am

  3. What a wild and weird and interesting story!

    Comment by Savvy — September 18, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

  4. You wrote… “a feeling of utter elation swept over me…..I am no super celebrity, but my book is out there. And that’s all that counts.” Joe, you are a man in tune with the universe. You found what matters and treasure it. Good for you, and congratulations for being published.

    Comment by Kay Kendall — September 18, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

  5. Thank you all, for your encouraging comments. I was moved by your words, assuring me that I am doing something right by following my dreams. It is an amazing journey that we travel, whether it be across the street or across an ocean, to find our loved ones and ourselves. When we do, we know it’s right. That is what I believe we call Destiny! Grazie mille, Connie, Windy, Savvy, and Kay! I will always cherish your kind words.

    Comment by Joe Chiba — September 19, 2014 @ 4:07 am

  6. Can’t wait to read your story Joe and relive my wonderful time in Tuscany!

    Comment by Milton Wheeler — September 19, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

  7. Very proud of you, Joe. The book was destined to be published!

    Comment by sunnyfrazier — September 20, 2014 @ 1:51 am

  8. Hi Joe,
    I just read the little story about how you came to write your book and it was charming! I follow Jenny Milchman on Facebook and found the link there.
    I have a little story too! I began a novel 30 yrs. ago and have never finished it. When I dug it out 3 yrs. ago, I decided to research where my title character would have come from in Ireland, I was shocked! It seems that “my people”, the McMahons, are descended from this imaginary character named O’Brien! This character has haunted me all of my adult life!
    My sister had a years old copy of our family genealogy that my aunt had spent a lot of time and money compiling. She even went to Ireland and worked with the Heritage Center in County Clare. They were able to trace back to 3 generations of our family who were born there…back to 1782. Fascinating stuff!
    I look forward to reading your book!

    Elaine McMahon

    Comment by Elaine McMahon — September 22, 2014 @ 11:00 am

  9. Hello Joe, good luck on following through and writing your story. I know ever family has one and I am sure most families have someone (like me) who is researching and writing their stories happily hoping one day to publish them. Well done, what a thrill. My research led me to Southern Ireland, Venezuela, and beyond and you couldn’t make it up…good luck and happy researching. I know you won’t stop because once you get the bug it keeps itching until you scratch it again. Thanks for sharing and good luck. Jenny, thanks so much for such a fascinating Moment. Loved it.

    Comment by Jane Risdon — September 22, 2014 @ 1:42 pm

  10. It’s so very nice to see more comments from readers who understand the deep meaning and connection we have to our roots, wherever they might be, and the unbreakable bonds we share with our families. Milton, Sunny, Elaine, and Jane, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful and kind words. Milton, let’s reminisce together over a bottle of vino Toscano! Sunny, you know I owe it all to you. Elaine, your story may be little, as you say, but if you believe in it, and I know you do, then you will finish it one day! 30 days or 30 years, it does not matter. All that matters is that you enjoy the writing, and that your passion comes through. And let me tell you, your little story, I don’t just want to read it. You’ve got me wishing I could write it with you! I want to go to Ireland with you and complete what you started 30 years ago! And Jane, you have wandered far for your story. I just know you believe in it, too, for “you could not make it up.” Your story is yours only, true, unique, and only yours! Grazie mille, tutti! I shall keep your words close to my heart.

    Comment by Joe Chiba — September 23, 2014 @ 1:21 am

  11. Joe, Your remarks to me were very touching. Your enthusiasm is contagious! My current book is in the editing stage and I am grateful for all the help I have received in my two years in a writing class. This is a prequel to the original book which will end up being the third book of a trilogy. Thirty years ago, my mentor asked me when I was going to accept that I would be writing a trilogy. I was so overwhelmed that I stopped writing for the next thirty years. Now I can’t stop. I sincerely believe that I could not have written the book at that stage of my life. My life experience has contributed greatly to my understanding of the human condition.
    I am totally invested in my characters. I see and hear each one as plain as day as if I was right there with them. They tell me the most amazing things! Every chapter was a surprise.

    Comment by Elaine McMahon — September 23, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

  12. Elaine, I am so happy to hear you can’t stop writing now. I believe that all three books are going to be amazing! Your positivity and enthusiasm shines through! I am working on my second book now. It’s not a sequel, but it’s about Italy again. Of course! Can’t wait to read your amazing story!

    Comment by Joe Chiba — September 24, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

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