Luzzi’s evocative personal history and incisive cultural critique illuminates the complex forces that have shaped his own...

MY TWO ITALIES

Memoir from Luzzi (Italian/Bard Coll.; Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy, 2008, etc.), who, as the first American-born child of Italian immigrants, felt alienated from his parents’ roots.

Raised in suburban Rhode Island, educated at Tufts University and Yale, he felt closer to the aesthetically rarefied Italy of Dante and Michelangelo than to the poverty and superstition of his family’s native Calabria. There were two Italies, the poet Shelley had taught him, “one sublime and the other odious.” Popular media further fueled his “cultural schizophrenia,” with Italian-Americans portrayed as thugs in The Sopranos and The Godfather. Italian-American identity remains enigmatic, Luzzi believes, since “our pride in our ancestors grows with the distance we set between them and ourselves.” Attempting to bridge that distance, Luzzi embarked on a journey of discovery, examining the social, political and cultural differences between the wealthy, Europeanized north and the “carnal violence” of the south, his parents’ background, and his own fraught relationship with Florence, where he has lived. Family, he discovered, is central to Italian life. Mothers, for example, selflessly fulfill the needs of their sons well into adulthood. “In Italy,” Luzzi found, “unmarried men don’t cut the umbilical cord and apron strings; they stretch them out.” Family loyalty, though, prevents the formation of “informal civic traditions” that foster a sense of “national community.” Cynicism, coupled with a celebration of “the art of living rather than…the ties that bind” has resulted, Luzzi concludes, in “an unhealthy Italian body politic.” Italy today, writes the author, is mired in crisis: an aging population, deadening bureaucracy, rising unemployment and endless corruption.

Luzzi’s evocative personal history and incisive cultural critique illuminates the complex forces that have shaped his own identity. Being Italian and American, he comes to realize, has been both a bountiful gift and “an ethnic cross I had to bear.”

Pub Date: July 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-29869-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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