Upon first glance, Joseph Lunievicz’s story about a young boy who learns about himself while overcoming obstacles marred by a conflicted childhood is not uncommon. However, the inspiration is far from cliché.
Lunievicz, 49, recalls having a dream for months about clashing swords and a self-created image of two men dueling atop a roof.
“I remember reading an article about The Hotel Chelsea on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue and because I had lived in that area for a few years, I had been familiar with the hotel’s façade,” said Lunievicz, who was intrigued by the sword playing adventures in “Captain Blood” and “The Mark of Zorro” as a child. “In my mind’s eye I saw two men. I saw them as if they stood in front of me and I was on the rooftop next to them. They faced each other with small-swords, and the swords were sharp. One man was in his seventies, gray-haired, with a broken nose. I could see his face, and its lines held great sadness. His opponent’s face I couldn’t see, but I didn’t need to. I’d found my Cid Wymann – the boy, later turned man – who I was going to write about.”
“Open Wounds,” a young adult novel by the Jackson Heights author, delves into a heart that is pillaged and plundered by the abuse of a drunk father who “spoke with his fists,” and anger that developed into destructive aggression. It captures the life of a young boy, Cid Wymann, who at the age of 13 spends his life in an orphanage because he has no home. His mother dies at childbirth and his father disappears into thin air. Despite the dark shadow of loneliness, the young boy is rescued by his long lost relative, Lefty, an injured war-veteran from England, who in an unusual way gives him the love of a family, while helping him channel his aggression through the art and discipline of a sword, or fencing.
Lunievicz decided on New York as the book’s setting because it’s the place he has called home his entire life. He also chose the book’s time period because, with its melting pot population, many different New Yorkers felt the impact of World War II.
“New York City in many ways is a character itself with its own wounds of poverty, loss of population to the war and the return of wounded warriors to a home where they cannot find work or readjustment…where U.S. Germans and Jews, Italians, Chinese and Japanese were discriminated against because of their home countries position in the war. Cid’s struggle is both with this environment and with its reflection that he carries inside himself.”
The book is the result of the Lunievicz’s passion for fencing and the experiences he shared with his mentors and the relationship with his abusive biological father, who was a victim of paranoid schizophrenia and alcoholism after his service in World War II. More importantly, the book is inspired by the love showed by the author’s stepfather, “who has been for all intents and purposes and for the last 41 years of my life, my real father.”
“I used to love going to watch these movies like “Mark of Zorro” and as a kid,” said Lunievicz. “My dad and I watched these movies and as a kid, who wouldn’t be excited about sword play? So my father really instilled this love of fencing in me and that’s what I chose to write about.”
Cid transforms from a child who got kicked out of school constantly for picking a fight to a disciplined man who becomes whole. It is this transformation that Lunievicz hopes readers of the book can take away and apply to their own lives.
“I want [the readers]to know that no matter what has happened to them they can still discover who they are and that they can still become whole,” Lunievicz said.