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Dances with Luigi: A Grandson's Determined Quest to Comprehend Italy and the Italians Hardcover – April 10, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (April 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312251882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312251888
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Heartfelt but unfocused, Paolicelli's memoir recounts the television journalist's trip to Italy, where he hoped to find out more about his family's history and an estranged relative. In 1991, after a year of Italian lessons, Paolicelli's vague yearning to know more about his immigrant grandparents gave way to action when he found out he could gain a European passport if he located his grandfather's Italian birth certificate. A 40-something bachelor, Paolicelli decided to take the money he'd been saving for the education of his non-existent children and go live in Rome. Throughout Paolicelli's adventures, his neighbor, Luigi, serves as his guide around Rome and Italy in general, but the author takes an unusual liberty with this character. Though Luigi is based on Paolicelli's real-life neighbor, Paolicelli declares at the beginning of his book that "the character of Luigi" is actually a composite, one that the author sometimes uses as a mouthpiece to express "the contemporary Italian view." When Paolicelli does track down some relatives, his emotions are poignant, if predictable: anger that his grandparents were kept illiterate by a faulty educational system; shock at hearing the familiar sounds of their local dialect. There are also plenty of anecdotes about Italian culture--including one concerning a restaurateur in rural Abruzzi who raises the very lamb he serves, and another about the incredible cliff-side homes of the Sassi di Matera. But Paolicelli's long slog through Italian bureaucracy quickly grows as trying for the reader as it does for him, and his narrative has a tendency to ramble without providing the kind of historical context that would make this book appeal to a wider readership. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Award-winning television journalist Paolicelli has written a beautiful story that traces the history of his grandfather's life in Italy in an attempt to learn more about his own roots. A natural-born storyteller, Paolicelli immediately grabs the reader's attention in his prolog, describing his Italian family members and the passing of the older generation. His search begins in Rome, where Paolicelli gets help from his Italian neighbor Luigi, who takes him under his wing and acts as his translator, his chauffeur, and his contact throughout the entire journey. Vivid descriptions of the Italian countryside and its people carry the reader along on this three-year journey of self-discovery. The search ends in Matera, where Paolicelli finally learns the answers to his questions and comes, finally, to know the man his grandfather was. A compelling and moving memoir, this tale is remembered long after it has been read. Recommended for public libraries.
-Stephanie Papa, Baltimore Cty. Circuit Court Law Lib.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Again I only got the book 24 hours ago.
Anthony Pierulla
If you long to know your Italian roots especially if your family is from "the mezzogiorno" or if you are not even Italian-American, this book is wonderful.
Patricia R La Sala
And most of all, it told me a heart warming story of an American's discovery of his family's past.
Helen Stavrou

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Helen Stavrou on March 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Dances with Luigi" is a super read. It sings. It transported me to Rome--into the coffee bar in a side street, to a jazz club after hours, along the ancient stones of the Appian Way. It took me up into the Abruzzii mountains whose medieval villages hid ageless secrets. And most of all, it told me a heart warming story of an American's discovery of his family's past.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Pierulla on July 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you are a second, third, or even fourth generation Southern Italian get your hands on this book. Mr. Paolcelli has done what I have wanted to do for the better part of my life, find out what made someone the way is and why he feels about family the way he does. For me Dances with Luigi grabbed my heart and soul and pulled tears from my eyes. Admittedly I have only read the first 100 pages but pages 78-86 were worth the price of a three hour course in Italian history. Again I only got the book 24 hours ago. If you enjoyed Talese's, Unto the Sons then you will for sure get a big time buzz from this work. I wish I could get in touch with the author and extend my heart felt thanks for writing this book. apierull@accd.edu
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "maulhardt" on August 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've been doing the same type of work to trace my mother's family, and was encouraged and delighted by Mr. Paolicelli's story--it's amazing how many similarities there are in our experiences.
But I was disappointed in the end of the adventure, and the drama of the narrative: the book draws you into the relationship the author has with Luigi (it's all in the title!), and he's forgotten in the end. What was it like to leave Italy? Is he still in touch with Luigi, Sebash, etc.?
Also, I was surprised at several editorial inconsistencies and incidents of sloppiness in the book. For example, at one point the narrator translates roman numerals for us, but the numerals do not add up to "1801" as way he reveals. Several sentences were unclear and confusing, and a better editor wouldn't have let this happen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lucille Kujawa on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even for someone who usually does not like non-fiction, this book is a treasure. Mr. Paolicelli combines the flavor of both Rome and Southern Italy with the elements of a mystery, finding one's roots. For anyone who has shared the experience of growing up Italian-American or anyone who is in the process of growing up as an Italian-American now, this book will provide a wonderful link to your background. For those of any nationality it is a charming, warm look at the quest for links to one's heritage. I plan on giving a copy of this book to both my sons and my sister so they can share with me the knowledge this book gave me and the pride it reawakened
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Susan Butterworth on August 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The themes and emotions of this book are instantly recognizable to the many Italian Americans involved in exactly this kind of search. It is wonderful to read first-hand about a man who follows his heart and spends 3 years in Italy looking for his family's stories and records. The secrets he uncovers, the cousins he meets, the frustrations of missing information, and long search for his grandfather's birth certificate are stories that resonate. And the fact that it takes 3 years but he finally finds the missing birth certificate is encouraging to those of us who are still searching. The big BUT is in the writing and editing. How many times can a writer use the word "obviously?" If it's so obvious, spare us the tired adverb. How many times can he wonder, with tears in his eyes? A simpler telling with fewer gushing epiphanies would be more effective. And did Paolicelli truly find the birth record on his last weekend in Italy? Guided by divine or extrasensory intervention? The ending does seem contrived. Yet the book is indeed a pleasure, one to send to friends and relatives, in spite of its flaws.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "mimitabby" on August 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am an Italophile with southern italian roots. This book grabbed me by the throat. I couldn't put it down. He trudged through the northern Italian stereotypes of southerners, but then colorfully decribed wonderful, vital people, as he finds friends, countrymen, and then, finally family in the Southern Italian towns that his ancestors left so many years before. His story describes a combination of hard work, diligence and good fortune. A great read for anyone trying to find their roots, or who is interested in things Italian.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Scott Tallal on April 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a great read! Mr. Paolicelli is a true "journalist" in every sense of the word: this is a very personal journal of the author's search for his family roots and the surprises it reveals, interwoven with incredibly sensitive observations of everyday life in modern Italy. A "Joy Luck Club" from the Italian-American perspective, reading this book makes you realize what all of our families have gone through in coming to America.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mike Ferring on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Paul Paolicelli heads for Italy to find his roots, but along the way leads us on a great tour that sweeps in such disparate themes as Roman history, American jazz, the Catholic faith, and flavors of great food.
He tells it all in wonderfully detailed antecdotes and conversations, often involving his Italian foil, Luigi. (And he manages to smoothly translate every Italian word, so he never leaves language-impaired Americans behind.)
Ultimately, what makes "Dances" so musical is Paolicelli's obvious passion for life that gathers us up and carries us from start to finish.
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