LA STORIA: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience by Jerre & Ben Morreale Mangione

LA STORIA: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience

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A rich, humane, well-researched discourse on Italians in America, by Mangione (An Ethnic at Large, 1978, etc.) and Morreale (Monday, Tuesday...Never Come Sunday, 1977). By marshalling abundant, striking, and unexpected facts, the authors create a fresh view of the Italian contribution to American culture. Amerigo Vespucci emerges as an ambiguous hustler, while the forgotten Fillipo Mazzei comes alive as a man at the heart of the birth of our nation--friend of and influence upon Italophile Thomas Jefferson and ""prime mover in founding and organizing a constitutional society whose members included James Madison, James Monroe, and Edmond Randolph."" Equally memorable is Count Luigi Cesnola, Union officer and Confederate prisoner, art dealer and first director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The brutal realities of turn-of-the-century immigration and of the melting-pot squalor of the resulting Italian ghettos are portrayed matter-of-factly, but the authors also explore little-known Italian-American outposts in Louisiana (where their communes prospered), Texas (where immigrants were tipped even off more outrageously than usual), and even in Arizona, where N.Y.C.'s future mayor Fiorella La Guardia spent some formative years. It all adds up to a powerful look at a heritage often overwhelmed by the dominant Anglo culture, and to a strong antidote to the mafia-mythology so dear to the media. The facts are all here, but what makes the book hum are a vigor and tone unique to writers tempered in the liberal-left tradition of the Thirties, for whom humanity and social issues are truly of the essence.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1992
ISBN: 0060924411
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: HarperCollins