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Are Italians White?: How Race is Made in America Paperback – August 16, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0415934510 ISBN-10: 0415934516 Edition: 1st
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Are Italians White?: How Race is Made in America + White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945
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Editorial Reviews


These thoughtful essays on the construction of race,  ethnicity, nationalism, and their consequences for culture, conflict, and solidarity ought to be mandatory reading for anti-racists everywhere.
--Robin D. G. Kelley, USC

 Are Italians White? is great social and cultural history. Guglielmo and Salerno have "done the right thing." This is a compelling volume.
--Robert A.Orsi, Northwestern University

Are Italians White? works from a strong antiracist premise and follows the thread of progressive, activist Italian-American history into the present. Bravo!
--Micaela di Leonardo, Northwestern University

This is an outstanding collection, combining sympathy for its subjects, passion for the truth, a critical outlook, and exemplary scholarship.
--Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became White

This splendid collection is certain to prompt critical rethinking of the way in which the so-called "new immigrants" negotiated their transition from foreigners to members of mainstream America.   
--Rick Halpern, University of Toronto

"This book cuts to the heart of the similarities and the differences between Italian Americans and African Americans, which historically has been a volatile mix. I applaud this insightful scrutiny."

-Spike Lee

About the Author

Jennifer Guglielmo is Assistant Professor of History at Smith College. Salvatore Salerno is an independent scholar who has taught at University of Massachusetts at Boston, California State University at Sacramento, and Macalester College. David Roediger (afterword) is the Kendrick Babcock Professor of History at the University of Illinois and the author of many books, including Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415934516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415934510
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Robert Bello on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
You can't tell a book by its cover. When I first saw this book with the picture of an immigrant family and the Red-White and Green covert art, I assumed this was another type of book then it turned out to be. Instead, I found incredible collection of essays that explores how Italian immigrants and their descendants dealt with an American racist society. The articles range from the historical to the contemporary, and cover early immigration, the World War II era, white flight, Italian violence, even Italian radicals, music and poetry!
We all know that Italians were never considered fully white in America but this book talks about how Italians dealt with America's views of race. I learned a lot from this book like how Italians were not only discriminated in America because they were olive skinned foreigners from southern Italy but were also discriminated in Italy before they left by northern Italians. But even despite the prejudice in America, the federal government always considered Italians "white", and that's what counted. So Italians were able to benefit in ways that blacks, Hispanics, and Asians couldn't like in housing, jobs, the right to vote, marry who you want, own property, and become a citizen. It made a big difference. This book helped me to understand my Italian heritage and my family's history and also how we did get help from government even though my uncles always complain about welfare cheats. They should read this book!
The book has articles about Italian Americans anarchist and socialists who fought for a better society. And there was a great article about Philadelphia's mayor Rizzo - that guy was brutal. What a horror. I would have hated to be black in Philly when he was mayor.
There's a lot of other good stuff.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lavendula on December 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
In Are Italians White, Jennifer Guglielmo and Salvatore Salerno edit a collection of essays that vary in interest, relevance, and overall content. For a student of Italian American history, in light of what has been out there for many years now (particularly the work of Robert Orsi, George Pozzetta, Donna Gabaccia, etc.) the results achieved by Guglielmo and Salerno are average at best. To be sure, there are some great moments: Vincenza Scarpaci's essay on Italian immigrants in rural Louisiana, Caroline Waldron Merithew's essay on the Spring Valley Race Riot of 1895, Gerald Meyer's essay about a 1945 incident in New York City, as well as a few others. These are seminal pieces that ALL students of American history should know and understand. Some of the other stuff, particularly the essays contained in the final section, "Toward a Black Italian Imaginary" seem to scrape the bottom of the barrel in terms of inspiration, skill, and relevance. Overall, however, its greatest disappointment is that it buys completely into the flawed premises established by whiteness studies pioneers such as David Roediger (who writes the afterward) and as a result it barely skims the surface of Italian American history, agreeing on a set of conclusions even if the evidence does not suggest them. Ultimately, for an Italian American, it is therefore an unsatisfying read; for other readers, the lack of context may make it fall completely flat.

There are several critical flaws in this book. First, it never really clearly defines the racial terms it throws around. It simply begs the question throughout.
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48 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Amazon customer on February 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book online (not for the current price -$135-that would be nuts!!) because the title intrigued me and it had gotten good reviews. BIG MISTAKE.

First of all, the book does not even consider whether Italians are "white" or not. The book is a series of unenlightening essays that basically just say "Yes, Italians are white and they should feel guilty for it". The only group that Italians are compared to (or I should say "against") in this book are African-Americans. They are the deciding factor in this book as to whether Italians are "white" or not. There is no comparison between Italians and other Mediterranean groups in this book. And no comparison between Italian-Americans and "Latinos" (specifically Mexican-Americans - a group with which the Italian-Americans have a very similar history to in this country regarding their experiences, jobs taken, low wages, discrimination, language differences, even ethnic slurs (ie. "greaser", "greaseball", etc.)). One author (Jennifer Guglielmo) mentions that her Sicilian-American friend grew up in East Los Angeles and because of his dark complexion, he "...often passed for Latino..." So you would THINK that she would start drawing parallels, but NO. How disappointing!

I once had a teacher who taught Government in college. He happened to be of Mexican-American background. He and I had many interesting and thought-provoking conversations after class, often about the experiences of Mexican-Americans and those of Italian-Americans in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We both agreed that there were many similarities.
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