Tiziano Thomas Dossena is not one to bring attention to himself.
Despite a largely successful career as what can perhaps only be described as a Renaissance man – fiction writer, journalist, poet, sculpture, art critic – Dossena admits to sometimes avoiding some of the social events and formalities that go along with his profession. So when New York State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino invited him to Albany to honor him in front of the rest of the Assembly, he had his reservations.
“First of all, I did not know what to expect,” said Dossena, a Crestwood resident. “I’m not too much of a social person. Like most people that like to write…I like to write. I like to create. I’ve always stayed on the side. So when I got there I was a little shaken up. I told myself, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have come.’”
Born in Milan, Italy in 1952, Dossena began writing at a young age, and at sixteen came to America to pursue his studies. When he returned to Italy in 1978, Dossena was showered in awards and prizes for his contributions to the arts, everything from sculpture, to journalistic essays, to works of poetry and fiction.
Since then, Dossena has earned five different degrees from colleges and institutes in New York, and his work has appeared in magazines and anthologies throughout Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and the United States. Dossena’s first book, a collection of short stories titled Caro Fantozzi, was released in 2009. The following year, he co-authored his second work, Doña Flor, An Opera by van Westerhout, a chronicle of Italian composer Niccolò van Westerhout’s life.
These were not the reasons why Assemblyman Saladino invited Dossena to Capitol Hill, however, or at least they were not the only reasons. For as much as Dossena has contributed in way of essays, articles, and short stories, he has also done his fair share in and for the community.
From 1998 to 2004, for instance, Dossena served as a council member of the Committee of Italians Abroad in New York, as well as its secretary from 1998 to 2001. Dossena is also a member of a number of other academic and cultural organizations, including the New York Academy of Sciences, Accademi Tiberina, and the Haute Académie Français. For the last nine years, Dossena has been one of the leading members of the Eastchester chapter of the Sons of Italy – the largest and oldest Italian-American organization in the United States – which funds scholarships for local youths and holds numerous events in the community.
Today, Dossena is a staff writer for the bilingual online magazine USA Bridge Puglia, as well as the Editorial Director of the non-profit Italian quarterly L’Idea, published in New York since 1974. Both of these jobs, Dossena does for free.
It goes without saying, that as Assemblyman Saladino read off these very same accolades in front of the rest of the Assembly earlier this month, any hopes Dossena had of slipping by unnoticed during his visit to Capitol Hill all but vanquished. In fact, it wasn’t long before assemblymen from all different districts were lining up to shake Dossena’s hand and congratulate him, to the point where order had to be restored by the Sergeant-in-Arms on duty.
“Actually we disrupted the assembly a little bit,” Dossena recalls. “I was shocked. We started to get a little loud without realizing it, so he had to tell us to quiet down and for everybody to sit back down and get back to work. It was very, very friendly. I was surprised. I didn’t expect it.”
Assembly Speaker Peter Rivera then officially acknowledged Dossena’s presence and achievements, inviting him to come back to the Assembly soon. Dossena’s daughter Samantha, who accompanied her father to Albany and will attend the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University this fall, was also recognized.
The strangest was still to come, however, as shortly after the Assembly ended their session, Dossena was faced with some rather unexpected requests from a number of assemblymen and New York State senators.
“They wanted to take pictures with me, which I really thought was funny,” Dossena said. “This was one of the first times I was being recognized personally, and it was a great sense of gratification. That was the most unusual part, because I was honored to take pictures with them, but they were asking to take pictures with me. I was like a child going to a graduation. It was a funny thing.”