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Piedmonter's First Novel Explores 3 Generations of Immigrant Family

David La Piana, whose previous books have focused on strategies for nonprofit organizations, turned to fiction to delve into the life of his late father.

Piedmont resident and novelist David La Piana. Photo courtesy of David La Piana.
Piedmont resident and novelist David La Piana. Photo courtesy of David La Piana.
Piedmont resident David La Piana's debut novel, First Generation — released last week in paperback and available from amazon.com — had its genesis in his father's death nine years ago at age 89.

"I decided I needed to understand my father better — he had never been very communicative — and I clearly was not going to get anything more from him now or ever," La Piana says. "So I created a novel as a kind of invented memoir."

The book follows three generations of an immigrant family: a man escaping a desperate life in 1920s rural Sicily, a young soldier fighting with the U.S. Army in North Africa in 1943, and a teen rebelling in a Chicano barrio in Los Angeles in the late 1960s.

And while the story is fictional, it draws heavily on La Piana's own experience of growing up in Pico Rivera, a working-class community bordering East Los Angeles that itself becomes a character in the novel.

"I lived in PR from age 5 until 18," La Piana says.

"I did all my growing up on those streets. They say you should write about what you know, and that’s what I tried to do.

"I am also a World War II history buff. I have studied the war for decades. So I put those two pieces together.”

La Piana settled in the Bay Area after graduating from UC Berkeley and moved to Piedmont in 1998 with his wife Mary McFarland, a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in Oakland.

They have two daughters, Marisa, 25, who is studying for her master's degree in social work at Cal, and Tessa, 22, who is about to graduate from Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.

La Piana himself has bachelor's and master's degrees in comparative literature from UC Berkeley and a master's in nonprofit management from the University of San Francisco. He has since taught graduate courses at the Haas Business School at Cal and at USF.

He was executive director of the East Bay Agency for Children from 1982 to 1998, when he founded La Piana Consulting. He's previously written six nonfiction books that focus on management and strategies for nonprofit organizations.

Locally La Piana has been involved in a variety of community activities that include coaching youth sports teams and serving on the board of the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir.

The paperback version of First Generation is available for $8.99 from Amazon.com. A Kindle version will be available soon. Get updates by following the author on twitter @DavidLaPiana.

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