Drawing on real characters from her childhood, Passen tells a warmhearted story that is ""true, sort of."" ""Back when there was only black-and-white television,"" she and her immediate family shared a house with Nana and Poppa, Uncle Angelo (a cop on the night-shift) and his rapidly growing brood, and Uncle Carmen, who comes home one day with terrific news: ""He gotta new job! Irma office! A suit job...No more he be a waiter!"" Despite Carmen's protestations (""I don't have enough money...""), the whole crew, with his fiancee and several more relatives, haul him down to Mr. Herbie's store, get him to try on a suit, pretend that he's won a free suit in a contest, and (while he's in the changing room) pool their resources (""Uh, I think I got a twenty here"") to pay for the suit. In the naive style she used in Fat, Fat Rose Marie (1991), Passen portrays these wonderfully ordinary people as cheerfully plain--an extended family of 21 Italian-Americans who can depend on each other.