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EXCLUSIVE: Author Aili McConnon Discusses Her Award-Winning Non-Fiction Book, ‘Road to Valour’

McConnon and her brother, Andres, recently won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Road to Valour: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation.

By: Ashley Ramnarain
Published: November 7th, 2013 in Culture » Books » Interviews
Aili McConnon

We both were certainly inspired by Bartali and I think in that we formed a bond. A lot of times people ask, whether they be readers or at book events, “why did Bartali get involved?’ The book goes into this. What I think what was striking to us, and probably inspired us and sort of led us to develop a bond with Bartali, was the fact that basically he got involved and it wasn’t that he was not this superhuman character who realized that people could be punished or sent to camps and he helped. It was above all that. Precisely because researching the book we realized that when meeting with his wife and family and friends, there was a tremendous amount of worry and fear. But it was that he felt that fear and still helped,” Aili McConnon shares in a phone interview about her recently published non-fiction book about cyclist Gino Bartali, called Road to Valour: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation.

Road to Valour is the product of nearly a decade of research between authors Aili McConnon and Andres McConnon, siblings who pursued their passion for history and, in particular, the story of Holocaust hero, Gino Bartali. Many know Bartali as the amazing cyclist, and sports hero, that won the Tour de France twice, but Aili explains that there is a different heroic aspect of Bartali that was previously unknown. The pursuit of this book was fueled by the knowledge that there were many people who still did not know of Bartali’s contributions to the Jewish community in Italy.

“People knew this man as a sort of sports hero, but he was a hero during World War II and some of his greatest accomplishments were really during World War II when he wasn’t racing in a formal race, but he was using his bicycle and his fame to help the community of Jews in Italy who were being persecuted at that time by Mussolini and Hitler. He sheltered a family of four, who were friends of his. He sheltered them in an apartment he owned,” Aili McConnon explains,


“And he really did risk his life for a crime at the time, to shelter Jews, and he was also married, so he was kind of supposed to stay away from danger. He also had a little son... but it was important to him. The second way he was a hero during World War II, he traveled around countryside by bike and he hid identity documents in the frame of his bicycle.”

Moreover, while most siblings are often seen pursuing individual interests, this brother and sister duo joined their efforts in order to publish Road to Valour. She admits she was glad to be working with her brother Andre, because as siblings, they felt more comfortable critiquing each other. She also comments that Road to Valour was a perfect blend of both her and her brother’s skills.

“We’re close and we’re siblings, you know, you have a chance to sort of be frank and honest in a way that is sometimes even hard if you’re in the work place,” she shares, “A nonfiction book was a good combination because we each could teach each other about our respective strengths and kind of go from there.”

Related articles: Aili McConnon, Award-Winning, Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards, Andres McConnon, Jewish, Nazis, Italy, Road to Valour, World War II, Gino Bartali
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EXCLUSIVE: Author Aili McConnon Discusses Her Award-Winning Non-Fiction Book, ‘Road

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EXCLUSIVE: Author Aili McConnon Discusses Her Award-Winning Non-Fiction Book, ‘Road

McConnon and her brother, Andres, recently won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Road to Valour: A True Story of World War II Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation.

EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Ada Nicolescu Discusses Her Latest Novel, ‘The Black

‘The Black and the Green’, which takes place in Romania during the Second World War, is Nicolescu’s sequel to ‘Prelude to Black and Green’.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Cartoonist & Writer, Ariel Schrag

The author of “Potential” and “Awkward” discusses her upcoming debut novel, being a lesbian in America, issues with censorship, and much more.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Fantasy Author, Alisse Lee-Goldenberg

Lee-Goldenberg chats with Shalom Life about ‘The The Strings of the Violin’, inspired by Jewish folk lore, and her zombie apocalypse novel, ‘Bath Salts’

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