Joseph Bentivenga on 'Respect'
By Monica Viera
Dr. Joseph Bentivegna is a practicing doctor by day and a writer by night. Although more than content with his practice, Dr. Bentivegna has had an urge to pursue writing seriously since he was about thirty.
He's just finished publishing his third book, Respect, an intriguing story that's gaining serious momentum. It has been compared to Bonfire of the Vanities with its social commentary.
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Bentivegna and ask him about his latest book. He was more than happy to elaborate on his labor of love inspired by his interest in educating others on the fact racism is still prevalent.
Can you tell me about the book Respect and what inspired you to write about this topic?
Respect is basically the story of a black billionaire who lives in Connecticut and gets caught in a traffic jam. The cops pull him over for no real reason and his mother gets strip-searched.
The protagonist doesn't want to sue anyone - he just wants an apology. He then launches a high-tech vendetta to get one.
It's pure fiction but has cultural relevancy of class hypocrisy.
I was inspired to write about the topic because I like to entertain people and can empathize with racist situations like this because of anecdotes told to me by my close black friends. I am aware of how prevalent racism still is and wanted to use the story as an opportunity to address its relevance.
Let's talk about how Respect has been compared to Bonfire of the Vanities. Can you explain the similarities?
I have always idolized Tom Wolfe, author of the satirical novel Bonfire of the Vanities.
Tom Wolfe has inspired me because his writing is not only entertaining but has fantastic social commentary. I have tried to emulate his style in Respect.
What are some of the edgy and some of the funny examples of barely concealed racism in the story?
There is a lot of truth in my vignettes. I would say about twenty-five percent of my book is non-fiction.
There are just certain details that I use in the book, such as the judge confusing the black lawyer for a criminal, that I really experienced in real life and can't make up.
What is your background/profession?
I am an ophthalmologist and I'm usually quite busy running my practice. I have used some of my experiences as an eye surgeon to use as details for certain scenes in Respect.
I also spent a year as a volunteer physician in Haiti working for Mother Teresa's order in the 1980s.
One of the characters in the novel is Haitian and he relates how he deals with being black in the United States and compares it with his experience in Haiti. It's interesting how it all ties together.
What do you want readers to take away or learn from your books?
To be honest, my priority is keeping readers entertained. I get immense satisfaction from creating work that motivates the reader to stay engaged and turning pages.
I would like someone who reads this to realize that there is still class hypocrisy and racism.
If you're in the mood to escape your reality for a bit while learning about the complexity of modern racism and classism, check out Dr. Bentivegna's book, Respect. It'll immerse you in a story that could even happen to you or one of your friends in modern America.
With its high stakes and interesting twists, Respect should be on your reading list this spring. It's so powerful it may motivate you to engage in some activism of your own!
For further information visit: www.JoeBentivegna.com/respect-the-book/
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