Julius James DeAngelus
Reviews for Dancing on Seaside!
"Growing up in the Midwest, I had never seen the ocean. I played Monopoly and wondered Who lives in these houses? Who stays in these hotels? What’s a Boardwalk? When I learned that the Monopoly streets are in Atlantic City, I had part of the answer. De Angelus fills in the rest with Dancing on Seaside.
The people in DeAngelus’s Atlantic City don’t live on Park Place or Marvin Gardens. They are more Oriental or Vermont Avenue people. The book is an intricate narrative of the summer from beginning to end. Perfect little stories shine as DeAngelus brings Atlantic City to life for readers who know the place and for those who discover it in this novel.
Hope, a teacher, and her son Jamie move down the shore for summer vacation every year. Nicky lives year-round in Atlantic City. The two rising eighth graders have been summer friends for years. Nicky is the instigator, widely thought to be Most Likely to Go Directly to Jail. Jamie is more hesitant, but he’s ready for whatever may happen as they roam the beach, the shops on the Boardwalk, the Steel Pier. Girls, girls, especially the wondrous Benita, are on their minds all the time. More immediately, there is Seth and his car, whose very presence offends Nicky.
Jamie lives in the present. Hope, with a realistic nostalgia, cherishes the summers she has known since her childhood. Things that are past are present—and gone. For no reason Miss Alice, owner of the Cadillac Lounge. can think of, a little white girl loves jazz, R&B, and soul. She sneaks in to listen. Ejected over and over, Hope doesn’t quit, so Miss Alice finds her a chair in the office within listening range and a reason to be there. She is tasked with advising Miss Alice on financial matters relating to her business until she is old enough to listen to the music in the club.
Hope has received a letter that she knows may shed light on a family tragedy. She carries it in her pocket all summer, wanting and not wanting to open it. Dancing on Seaside is possibility, things that last and things that go away, coming of age, love, regrets…we are all dancing on Seaside."
- Ms. Marple
"I smelled salt air when I read this!
It’s been almost three generations since Atlantic City was reborn into a gambling mecca for the mid-Atlantic. As we do with so many things - we forget. We forget that just before its rebirth the city was the ashes of its former self whose heyday was filled with Bootleggers and Be Bop. The city shaped our sensibilities of what summertime meant in the early part of the 20th Century. It defined our cultural excesses before the War to End all Wars changed us as consumers and Civil Rights broadened our collective perspectives on humanity.
By 1977 Atlantic City was old. It was worn, but it represented a summertime paradise to Jamie and his family who lived on Seaside Avenue for decades. Atlantic City had become a ghetto nestled by the sea - forgotten as post-war vacation communities surrounded it and the looming hope of gambling updated the summertime experience for the last part of the Century. It was small. Tucked in the North-end, Seaside Avenue was only two blocks long from Pacific Ave to the Boardwalk. Summer kids still played outside every day until the streetlights came on. They roamed the streets and beaches and laid claim to every boardwalk shop from Memorial Day to Labor Day. To Jamie the underprivileged were day trippers or “shoobies” who didn’t have the luxury of a summer place even if it was in a decaying urban Eden.
Despite living in the same house, Jamie’s mother, the aptly named Hope witnessed an entirely different world. Her story is the ebb of a vibrant city triggered by a mysterious letter. The juxtaposition of hers and Jamie’s experiences is dazzling. The clubs and shops she visited as a young woman are haunting and only slightly familiar to Jamie’s sun filled days on the same post-modern streets. What a difference perspective makes! Dancing on Seaside demonstrates just how vibrantly the present is wedded to the past. It cherishes adolescent memories as rites set against a crumbling city. To paraphrase Sheriff Brody, it's only decaying if you look at it from the water."
"I’ve never been to Atlantic City but this book made me feel like I have. Reminded me a lot of going to the beach in Florida every summer.... engaging, emotional read. Respectfully & lovingly nostalgic, not whiny nostalgic. Go read it."
"Perfect description of life at the Jersey Shore every summer of my childhood during the 70s! Great characters - I really enjoyed this book! I even cried at the end when they were leaving the shore at the end of the summer, remembering exactly what that felt like!"
- Suzanne Burgmeister
"Being born and raised in Atlantic City this book brought back many fond memories.A must read especially if you were raised in AC during the 50's and 60's"
"I came to really love the characters in this novel. This story of the events of a single summer in their lives have a poignancy that makes you care about them a lot. I hated to see the story end and wish I could know what happened next. If I say anymore I might spoil it for you! Incidentally I feel the same way about the author's short stories. I'm always wishing for a sequel."
"I am struggling with how to review this book without going on at length or giving away spoilers. The story is told from two points of view. The perspective flips between a young boy Jamie and his mother. They both share the struggle of working through a life milestone. Jamie is spending his last summer before starting high school. His mother is learning to be caregiver to her aging mother following the death of her father. Both must also learn to deal with a family history that has lessons which resonates to today.
The theme is serious and important. It is a fresh perspective on a struggle many us can relate to. But the seriousness is alleviated by luxuriously described scenes and laugh out loud humor. Other reviewers have pointed out that the places described become tremendously real and important to them, despite never having visited Atlantic City. You will find the same is true for the characters. Jamie is particularly engaging as a boy who seems younger than his peers in some ways and more advanced in others. It is a real gift to read a novel where the characters are painted with such empathy.
I am so happy that the author has chosen to self-publish this work, as I think this is a story that needs to be told and you will enjoy reading."
"I enjoyed this novel so much, I read it twice. A very enjoyable, well written story. I found myself looking forward to reading it at every availability moment. The writing style and character descriptions put you there, in the sand, on the boardwalk. I look forward to this writers next book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand what summer in AC was like before the casinos came to the shore, wiping out the beautiful architecture of the 1950’s."
"Dancing on Seaside" is a setting-sun-on-cracked-sidewalks memory poem about a boy on the verge of manhood finding out truths about his family, his friends, and his place in the world, with a parallel story about a woman looking back on her earlier life and dealing with painful memories. It's a tale that's alternately filled with hope for the future and regret for the past. A smart, sensitive writer with a gift for description and a gentle, lulling prose style, Julius James DeAngelus has written a haunting, sweet elegy for a fading time in a fading town, with a sprawling cast of family and friends struggling with change, wondering about the future, and inextricably wedded to the past. I didn't want to say goodbye to these people and I couldn't stop thinking about them long after I finished the book."
-Tom, from Tom and Loranzo, Fabulous and Opinionated
"Saudades is a Brazilian term which means nostalgia, homesickness and longing for a person or a place. As someone who grew up in the inlet, a couple years on Seaside Avenue itself, this was a well crafted travel back in time to when Atlantic City was still the playground of the world. Both Hope and Jamie have stories to tell that unravel on these two blocks between Pacific and the Boardwalk. As Hope makes the transition from hometown native to summer resident, Atlantic City is making a transition from star to black hole. The sad decline and demise of the once proud queen of resorts is mirrored in the lives of its residents whose reality is a balance of holding on or submitting to the inevitable. All of this occurs it’s sand, salt and sun as a backdrop. A very enjoyable read."
- Jim O'Hara