AMERICAN QUEST: An Immigrant's Quest by Angelo Pellegrini

AMERICAN QUEST: An Immigrant's Quest

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A well-intentioned but unsatisfying account of a man looking back and recounting the crucial moments in his path to becoming an American. Pellegrini came to the Pacific Northwest in 1913 at the age of 10. His peasant family had fled the hardships of life in Tuscany. Pellegrini writes eloquently of his childhood and of his struggle to be both a good Italian son and an American boy. Unfortunately, he continually interrupts his story with much editorializing that is sentimental, contrived and disturbingly self-aggrandizing. The small boy yearning for education and a chance for self-improvement may have been humble, but little of that trait remains in the man. (As, for example, when Pellegrini assures us that the nation was deprived of a baseball star because his father wouldn't let him practice sports after school.) The majority of the book consists of what Pellegrini has learned about the economic, political and judicial history of America. He examines the antecedents of the Declaration of Independence, his growing feeling that the rights of man were being sacrificed to the vested interests of property, and finally, with Sacco and VanZetti, that the rights of man could be denied even in America. The ostensible reason for this study is that Pellegrini, integrating himself into the American system, is intent on finding the meaning of America. However, the reader quickly becomes convinced that, his loud protestations to the contrary, Pellegrini is writing an apologia for having joined the Communist Party in 1930. Through his study of American law and history he assures us that he made such a decision only from a surfeit of good intentions, only for taking the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution too seriously. His defense is so plaintive that one ends up pitying a man who has nothing to be ashamed of in the first place. Too bad, too, that the reader never gets the chance to make up his own mind about Pellegrini, who incessantly tells the reader what to think and how to interpret each act. There is much of interest in the story--one wishes he had trusted himself enough simply to tell it.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1986
Publisher: North Point