After researching these most iconic of men, the author spent a summer with Venice’s gondoliers in order to discover more about their unique occupation, vessels, and lifestyles. Instead of uncovering only objective facts, Gonzalez found herself drawn in to the lives of her subjects: being befriended, getting to know their families, learning their language, hearing the gossip, and being offered “free gondola rides” countless times—some of which carried a price tag not in the usual currency. What results is a story of these men and their boats woven through the tale of the author’s adventures among them, from carrying their profane messages between them to midnight skinny dipping to living a romantic adventure.
Free Gondola Ride is a first person narrative. The book is 235 pages, including a preface, poems, a section on the history of the gondola, a glossary of Italian words, and a bibliography. Thirty photos of the gondoliers and their city are interspersed within the text. The cover art features a glossy, full-color painting called Rowing Lessons by Venetian painter and gondolier Dino DeZorzi. The back cover includes a summary and reviews by authors Clarence Robert Tower and Norma Howe. Fifty cents of every book sale is donated to Venice in Peril, an organization committed to restoring Venice’s architecture.
Free Gondola Ride is the only book in print in America focused on Venice’s gondoliers. A selection from the book appeared on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News Travel section in 1998, and local readers then took that paper to Venice to find the featured gondolier. The book appeals to Venice travelers who want to find their gondoliers or those looking to experience their own new adventures.
Kathleen Ann Gonzalez is a full-time high school English teacher in the California Bay Area. While at San Jose State University, she won three Phelan awards for personal and expository essays. Her short story “That Was Living” can be found in the anthology Latina: Women’s Voices from the Borderlands, for which she did readings and signings in Bay Area bookstores upon its release from Simon and Schuster in 1995, and it was later reprinted in Many Voices from Prentice Hall in 2001. The story “Blueberry Stains” appeared in an anthology entitled Powerful Classroom Stories from Accomplished Teachers, in December 2003 from Corwin Press. She has also published numerous articles in travel magazines, teaching journals, and local newspapers. Free Gondola Ride is her first full-length book, and it was followed by A Small Candle: The Impact of Camp Everytown on Our Lives about the Camp Everytown diversity camp. She has collaborated on a book on how to teach high school English, titled Teaching Writing Grades 7-12 in an Era of Assessment: Passion and Practice, published by Pearson in fall 2013. Her book Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, leads readers to over 90 Venetian locations that the famed lover visited. Follow her research and thoughts on her blog at www.seductivevenice.wordpress.com.