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Dressing a Tiger by Maggie San Miguel

Dressing a Tiger

by Maggie San Miguel

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 2016
Publisher: Orchard Drive Press

A debut memoir about growing up among mobsters and other oddities.

San Miguel, as a young girl growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the late 1960s, was a fairly normal kid who loved mucking around in the lake, feared going to the dentist, and was concerned that her head was too big for her body (“My brother, Sid, says I look like Tweety Bird because my skull grows sort of bulbous at the temples”). What made her different from most children her age were her unusual parents: her mother, Patricia, read Dylan Thomas by the fireplace and had no qualms about throwing things at nuisance animals, she writes, and her father, Jack, a union negotiator, associated with members of organized crime, such as Carlo Gambino, head of the Gambino crime family. As Jack explained to her at one point, “Did you know I can have a man’s legs broken for $800.00? Pretty cheap deal, really.” The story encompasses the nuanced characteristics of Gambino hit men, Patricia’s relationship with Dallas district attorney Henry Wade (of Roe v. Wade fame), and a number of personal sentiments that range from the silly to the serious (“My satchel of secrets is becoming heavy with burden as this day progresses,” a troubled Maggie admits). The picture this book paints, however, is indisputably unlike any other. Anything, it seems, can happen in its world of grinning mobsters and lakeside adventures. That said, its third-person forays into the author’s family’s history (in 1929, for example, it says that Patricia’s father, who “reeks of hooch and the well seasoned whores of Wabasha Avenue,” committed a sexual assault) don’t prove quite as captivating as the latter-day, first-person accounts. Although readers may take some interest in what the author thinks made Patricia such a troubled eccentric, surely other scenes, such as one in which she throws a cat at a squirrel, allow for more poignant copy.

An entertaining blend of kooky events and earnest memories.