John Keahey
Award Winning Journalist and Expert on Italian/Sicilian Culture


John Keahey has spent more than thirty years as a newspaper/wire service reporter and editor who has turned his love for Italy into a career of writing and speaking on the subject.  His fifth book, due for release in the fall of 2018, is entitled Sicilian Splendors: Discovering Secret Places that Speak to the Heart. It carries the reader through small Sicilian villages  that seldom see visits from tourists. It is a book for travelers who want to see the real Sicily, away from the souvenir shops and tour buses. Sicilian Splendors is a companion piece to his best-selling book Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean, which explores Sicilian culture through a variety of elements: a cuisine that draws from the influences from the various nations that once controlled the island; its authors who, like their fellow islanders, consider themselves Sicilian rather than Italian; and through their deeply ingrained isolationist attitudes of Sicily’s three thousand-year history of being ruled by one invader after another (northern Italians being that latest conqueror during Italian Unification in 1861). Keahey also examines the influence of the Mafia and the impact of Sicilian-Greek myths that still permeate the Mediterranean’s largest, most mysterious, and most historically significant island.

 

His first book is a travel narrative of little known – at least to North American travelers – southern Italy, A Sweet and Glorious Land: Revisiting the Ionian Sea. This book follows the journey, one hundred years earlier, of Victorian novelist George Gissing through the wild and untamed reaches of the Italian peninsula’s bottom third. Gissing and Keahey explored the remains of the ancient Greek cities that once flourished in what is today Italy’s far south – it once was called Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece – and marveled at a land that stoically weathered invader after invader. The Greeks, here centuries before the Romans crawled out of their wooden-and-mud huts and marched down the slopes of the Palatine Hill to found a great western empire, created a civilization that still can be found in southern Italian traditions, dialects, and DNA.

 

Keahey’s second book—Venice Against the Sea: A City Besieged—details the decades-long struggle to find a way to protect Venice from an unstoppable sea-level rise that threatens the very fabric of the city. The book, written as the end of the twenty-first century’s first decade approached and the relentless effects of global warming threatens coastal cities worldwide, remains the definitive study of Venice’s watery struggle through history. It describes how, and why, the city was built in the midst of an Adriatic lagoon, how Venetians for centuries stayed above the sea’s twice-daily high tides, and it dissects the controversial and mightily criticized construction of the multibillion-dollar mobile gates at the Venetian Lagoon’s entrances.

 

Keahey’s interests and fascination of Italian culture and history reach farther north as well. His fourth  book–—Hidden Tuscany: Discovering Art, Culture, and Memories in a Well-Known Region’s Unknown Places—takes a unique approach beyond the typical travel narrative. It takes readers through a part of Tuscany not usually seen by North American visitors. He takes readers on a journey along Tuscany’s coast and to its villages full of artists and sculptors, their festivals, their history, and their daily lives amid medieval buildings that have long survived the test of time and centuries of warfare, including the more recent destruction by German soldiers, near the end of World War II, of tiny Sant’Anna and the killing of its innocent residents.

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Hardcover
Seeking SicilyA Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean
Thomas Dunne Books

Seeking Sicily explores what lies behind the soul of the island's inhabitants. It touches on history, archaeology, food, the Mafia, and politics and looks to nineteenth- and twentieth-century Sicilian authors to plumb the islanders' so-called Sicilitudine. This "culture apart" is best exemplified by the writings of one of Sicily's greatest writers, Leonardo Sciascia. Seeking Sicily also looks to contemporary Sicilians who have never shaken off the influences of their forbearers, who believed in the ancient gods and goddesses.

e-Book
A Sweet and Glorious LandRevisiting the Ionian Sea
Thomas Dunne Books

In the winter of 1897-1898, Victorian writer George Gissing made a well-chronicled journey throughout southern Italy. The result was a book, By the Ionian Sea, in which he detailed the influence of ancient Greece on the peninsula and contrasted the glory of Greece and its magnificent cities to the southern Italy of the late 1800s. The book was published in 1901 and has since become a classic in travel literature. A hundred years later, award-winning newspaper journalist John Keahey sets off to retrace Gissing's footsteps.

Hardcover
Hidden TuscanyDiscovering Art, Culture, and Memories in a Well-Known Region's Unknown Places
Thomas Dunne Books

In Hidden Tuscany, acclaimed author John Keahey takes the reader into a part of Tuscany beyond the usual tourist destinations of Chianti, Florence, and Siena. The often overlooked western portion of Tuscany is rich with history, cuisine, and scenery begging to be explored, and Keahey encourages travelers to abandon itineraries and let the grooves in the road and the curves of the coast guide your journey instead.

Sicily and southern Italians: Culturally Apart: It is a place with a climate approaching that of northern Africa and, even in the early twenty-first century, still experiences high unemployment while the north flourishes. Through it all, Sicilians and southern Italians maintain their culture and traditions, respect their history, and, most importantly, see themselves first as Sicilians, Calabrians, Basilicatans, or Puglese.
Venice: City Agaist the Sea: Venice is a city that captivates and enchants our immaginations. Keahey looks at the culture and history of Venice, and the forces that threaten its very existence.
Sardinia: Mysterious, Unknown: Very few Americans go to this island, second only in size to Sicily far to the southeast. Its language is foreign to mainland Italians; Keahey discusses the fascinating culture and history of this fascinating place.
George Gissing: A Melancholy Soul: Why did this prolific Victorian writer, once viewed as an equal to Thomas Hardy, yearn for Southern Italy? And what was his view of the people there? Keahey gives a comprehensive view of his life and times.
The First Italian: This is a talk about the first Italian to step foot on Manhattan Island, Venetian Pietro Cesari Alberti. This 27-year-old from a prominent family of the Republic of Venice, whose departure from there is shrouded in mystery but gives rise to interesting speculation, arrived in New Amsterdam in 1635 as an uphappy crewman aboard a Dutch ship. He married a Dutch woman and was raising a family while farming tobacco in Wallabout Bay, today the site of the former Brooklyn Navy Yard and portions of Fort Greene Park. His is a fascinating story in the context of this early Dutch colony that, in 1664 became New York City and, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, drew tens of thousands of Italian immigrants

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Praise for Seeking Sicily “Keahey meticulously observes the history, colorful customs and culture of Sicilians with boundless curiosity… Keahey marvels at variations in Sicilian cuisine with mouthwatering descriptions flooding the pages of this lush travelogue.”
--Kirkus

“Keahey’s journey is a rich guide to the culture and history of Sicily.”
--Publisher's Weekly

"Keahey can shift swiftly from, say, a hard-nosed investigation into the origins of the Mafia to a mouth-watering chapter on Sicilian cooking…He peppers the trip with tidbits from some of the best literature about Sicily and balances his joyful participation in island rituals and festivals with serious analysis.”
--Booklist