Pietro di Donato
was born on April 3, 1911, in West Hoboken, New Jersey. When his bricklayer father, Geremio, died in a building collapse in 1923, Pietro left school to support his family as a construction worker. Though he had little formal education, Donato loved French and Russian novels, and took night classes at the city college in construction and engineering. Inspired by the works of Émile Zola, he decided to begin writing about his experiences in the Italian American community. In 1937 the first version of
Christ in Concrete
—a chronicle of his father's life—was published in
. It was then expanded into a novel and became a bestseller. Donato wrote five more books in his lifetime. He died in 1992.