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La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience

46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060924416
ISBN-10: 0060924411
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The core of this gripping, panoramic chronicle is the mass emigration of Italians to the U.S. between 1880 and 1924. Their road to assimilation was marked by hard work, family solidarity, tradition-laden weddings and joyous festivals, but also by poverty, miserable housing, dangerous working conditions and marriages that "often seethed with tensions" despite a public image of unity and warmth. Mangione ( Mussolini's March on Rome ) and Morreale ( A Few Virtuous Men ) trace discrimination against Italian Americans, arguing that politicians and the media fanned prejudice after WW II by resurrecting the Mafia image of the 1890s. They discuss Italian Americans' awareness or denial of their heritage, providing cameos of Sacco and Vanzetti, Fiorello LaGuardia, Frank Sinatra, Don DeLillo, John Ciardi, Francis Coppola and dozens more. Early chapters discuss Italian adventurers (such as Columbus) and Italians who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War; a later one touches on intermarriage and divorce, which have contributed to the decline of immigrant culture. A magnificent saga that illuminates a century of accomplishment and struggle. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- The richness and variety of the Italian immigrant experience in America are captured here. Portraying the journey from the harshness and poverty of rural Italy and Sicily to the teeming ghettos of New York, Boston, and other American cities, the authors tell of the five-and-a-half million Italians who made the voyage. Utilizing newspaper articles, diaries, and novels to record first-hand recollections, their stories provide a microcosm of the immigrant experience, in general, and a record of the many contributions of Italian-Americans to the cultural mosaic of the United States. A rich source of materials for understanding the multicultural experience.
- Richard Lisker, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 508 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060924411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060924416
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Seiche on July 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
What a great book! It chanced to catch my eye in recently and I've found it hard to put down.
This book eloquently ties together the *entire* experience of the Sicilian immigrant before, during and after their arrival. Although it is light on the parallel history of Sicily (Sammartino's Sicily is an EZ read) the focus on the American aspect makes it that much more unique.
Yet, there is excellent treatment of what the hollow term "Italian" meant to a peasant from Sicily - not much. Once they came to the US, they were effectively lumped together with everyone from what had only recently been joined (and by force at that) into a nation. The authors also provide context to the socio-economic misery effectively inflicted upon the southern regions to the direct and exclusive benefit of northern regions.
Also demystified is the pervasive myth of the Mafia, originally perpetuated by northern Italians as reasons why their welcome in the South quickly wore out - the Sicilians were regularly maligned as genetically inferior, lazy, unintelligent and all part of the Mafia. With the constant perpetuation of the "secret-society" angle - it's has all the chracteristics of a great meme. The roots are detailed including how and who profited from this wicked myth including: opportunistic northernern Italians, sensationalist meida, ignorant Americans and isolated criminals interested in making themselves bigger than life.
It's a bitter irony that so many southern Italians immigrants and their descendants became successful in America while their own homeland refused to give then any opportunity. Armed with the facts, Italians and Italian-Americans have a chance to separate the fact from fiction.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Godfrey on February 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Did you know the largest mass lynching in American history was of Italian Americans?

I minored in Italian American studies as an undergrad. As you may imagine, there isn't that much literature out there that comprehensively covers "the Italian American experience", so La Storia was a recurring staple of the curricula for more than a few of my classes.

The information contained in this book is for the most part helpful, a great introduction from the beginnings of Italian Americana to the late 20th century. Many people today (regardless of heritage) do not know enough about Italian culture, although it is a huge part of the fabric of America. Also discussed is the political and economical history of 19th century Italy (something many Americans know nothing about), providing a nice starting point from which to put the Italian American experience into perspective. Although the authors mention the well-knowns like Al Capone and Fiorello Laguardia, what's great about La Storia is Mangione's and Morreale's inclusion of so many important personages of Italian heritage that have become lost in the sands of time.

My issue with this book is not its length but its density. So much information is crowded into every chapter, it's hard to retain all of it (and Mangione's excruciatingly wordy prose doesn't help). There are also some statistics and information nuggets that are uncited, but to the casual reader this won't be of any concern whatsoever.

La Storia is essentially the Bible of Italian American studies; a great cultural and historical overview, and a great introduction to the field. Ultimately, if you know next to nothing about Italian Americana, if you would like to enrich your knowledge, or if you just want to learn more about your cultural heritage, I recommend you buy this book.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
A book of this sort was long overdue. Perhaps I am not familiar enough with works in this area, but it was refreshing to see a well researched, serious account of the early Italian American experience. As a second generation Sicilian, I can testify that the anecdotes regarding family traditions, etc are authentic. In addition, the book lends tremendous insight into the connection between current Italo-American customs and beliefs and their genesis and roots back in Sicily. This book is also a monument to the many and varied contributions that Italian -Americans have made to this country. It should serve as a wake-up call to all Italian-Americans that we have let assimilation rob us of our unique identity as Italians and as Americans. This book is a "must read" for all Italian-Americans and anyone who thinks (from thier exposure to shamefully biased and opportunistic gangster films) that they have even the vaguest notion of what it means to be an Italian American.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
I thought the book was generally good. However, I thought the authors were more defensive about Ialians than they should have been. I do not think the book can be used as "history" because it is not objective enough. There are also errors in the book. For example Joe Montana played football for the San Fransisco 49ers, not the Giants. Giants are baseball. They left out Willie Mosconi, perhaps one of the best billiards players in the world. For a book, in my opinion, to be used effectively as history, it has to be objective and dispassionate. This is very unfortunate because the authors had a wonderful opportunity to really "lay it out there" and let the facts speak for themselves. Nonetheless, I have sent this book to at least five friends and family because it is good reading socially and not for professional academic use.
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