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Old World Daughter, New World Mother: An Education in Love and Freedom Hardcover – April 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393057283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393057287
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a memoir that combines the personal and the political, Laurino (Were You Always an Italian?) documents her journey from a childhood spent in the company of a traditional Italian family to becoming a mother herself and the many differences between her mother's life and her own. Laurino's mother, a stay-at-home mom, claimed that she was not like the other mothers—she didn't drive or participate in the school's PTA; she was superstitious and read omens from dreams into daily life, while keeping an overprotective eye on Laurino and her mentally disabled brother. Laurino's father believed in the power of education and supported Laurino through college, where she pursued her burgeoning interest in the feminist movement. She began her career in the early 1980s at the Village Voice and later became New York City Mayor David Dinkins's chief speechwriter. As she married and had a child, her worldview expanded to include that of a working mother, and she struggled to find a comfortable place for myself amid the hum of two dominant, divergent traditions. Laurino deftly tells her story, while succinctly expressing a feminist's perspective on motherhood and explaining how much further we have to go as a country in order to honor every woman's work. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

From Chaucer’s ribald “Wife of Bath” and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own to the portrayal of Tony Soprano’s mother in The Sopranos, academic Laurino looks at women’s roles through history, challenging in the process some feminist orthodoxies about the meaning of independence. She dramatizes the political issues through her personal story, from being raised in a southern Italian immigrant family in New Jersey with a mentally disabled brother through her current effort to balance the childcare of her young son with the demands of her job. Set against the sometimes slow-going discussions of gender sociology is Laurino’s wry, witty commentary about her push to assimilate (“I made the hyphen in Italian-American into an arrow”) and about the pressures of family, food, and fear versus science, freedom, and progress. Along the way, she raises essential identity issues: Is there a healthy side to dependency? Why does this nation of immigrants overglorify rugged individualism and freedom? Does feminism fail mothers and children? Sure to spark discussion. --Hazel Rochman

More About the Author

Maria Laurino was born and raised in northern New Jersey. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she received a B.A. in English and government, and of New York University, where she received an M.A. in English and American literature. She began her career as a journalist for the Village Voice and later became the chief speechwriter to former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins. Laurino examined ethnic identity in her first book, Were You Always an Italian?, which was published in 2000 and became a national bestseller. Her second book, Old World Daughter, New World Mother (2009), a meditation on contemporary feminism, describes the pull and tug of growing up in an Old World family that prized dependence even as she later embraced a New World feminism that championed personal autonomy. Laurino's journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Salon.com, and The Nation, and her essays have been widely anthologized, including in The Norton Reader. She teaches creative nonfiction at New York University.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
At first I had trouble figuring out what this book was about. The title suggested a memoir about a mother-daughter relationship. The first part of the book describes Laurino' Italian upbringing and her relatives. She's the daughter. The second part of the book shows Laurino as a mom. However, it's not a memoir. Laurino doesn't recount events of her life in linear fashion. She includes opinions and interviews relating to feminism.

The theme of Laurino's book seems to relate to the contradictions of the promise of feminism. For instance, Jeane Kirkpatrick - Laurino's college mentor - becomes a UN Ambassador in the Reagan administration. Though she's the first female to hold an international position in the president's cabinet, Kirkpatrick was not recognized as a feminist.

Laurino defends the speech New York Times writer Joyce Purnick made at the Barnard College commencement. Purnick acknowledged that she could not have achieved her successes if she had a child. According to Laurino, the Barnard women were furious.

Laurino points out that Purnick was telling the truth, but she goes on to blame the United States failure to accommodate female biology. Other countries, she points out, give new mothers considerably more time off.

She describes a particularly horrific experience, involving women doctors and a midwife. When she started crying after being advised to have no more children, the female doctor directs her to, "Emote later."

"Emote later?" Laurino asks. "For this I had chosen a feminist practice and its band of caring midwives?" I don't understand why Laurino didn't write a complaint to the head of her managed care group, the hospital board and, if necessary, the state medical boards.
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By grumpydan VINE VOICE on June 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Old World Daughter, New World Mother" focuses on Maria Laurino's experiences as a both a mother and daughter and the roles in today's society. She chronicles her life and compares what it was life for her mother and the role she played in their Italian family and herself; a working woman. Her amusing writing style and the questions she brings up makes this an interesting book for all those mothers and daughter facing the same dilemmas.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By rctnyc VINE VOICE on April 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My background and experience are very similar to Maria Laurino's, in that I am a woman; all four of my grandparents were born in Italy (Sicily and Naples); I grew up in an Italian-American enclave (Brooklyn, not New Jersey); I went on to attend elite schools and became an "American" professional; my husband is not Italian; and, when our son was a little kid attending summer day-camp at a NYC independent school, I made Italian box lunches for him each day. (My husband laughed out loud when I described Laurino's ricotta crackers, well-remembering the roast chicken legs w/olive oil and oregano, with a side of mozzarella.) Also, like Maria's friends, now that my son is a college student living at home and attending a local college (yes, he didn't leave -- not yet), each time he goes out, I say "Have fun!" when I really want to say "Be careful!" ("Why are you always worrying, Mom?") The fruit does not far fall from the Sicilian tree.

Laurino has a larger point, however, and one with which I strongly agree. She sees Italian-American culture as signifying the "caring" point of view that regards inter-dependency and nurturing at the basis of human development. Americans, and particularly our generation of feminists, thought that work should be at the center of women's lives. Laurino's point, learned as she reconciled her American values with the culture of her grandparents, is that autonomy is not the road to fulfillment. The fruit does not fall far from the tree because the tree and fruit are connected. A forward-thinking feminism, Laurino suggests, would find life-style solutions that would permit women (and men) to work while at the same time recognizing that family, and personal connections, are essential for the health of all.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AKA on July 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Old World Daughter, New World Mother: an Education in Love and Freedom by Maria Laurino. New York. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008.

Old World Daughter, New World Mother is a provocative meditation on feminism: a symphony of intellectual, historical, economic, political, social, emotional, and personal aspects playing their part in a final creation that holds together not only the story of Maria Laurino, but also other ambitious second generation immigrant women--perhaps Italian Americans in particular, but certainly not limited to that ethnic group.
Laurino, author of the best selling book, Were You Always an Italian, grew up in a traditional household that honored women who cared for their families, who sacrificed individual dreams for the well-being of the group. Her father, breaking the mold so many ethnic fathers broke in the 70s, encouraged his daughter to establish an independent life and a career. So off she went.
At Georgetown University, Laurino `assumed the identity of a girl reporter,' found a championing mentor--Jeane Kirkpatrick, ardent anticommunist and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, nonetheless--and began looking for answers to what became, for her, a lifelong question: female autonomy. Is it possible? Can autonomy create parity in a society built on competition and profit? Do women really want autonomy?
At this point in the book, Laurino pulls out her powerful writing skills and begins, like the master she is, to twirl, cut, expose, and cite literature as well as scientific reports that lead along the path to answering her question. At the same time, readers ascend the steps of her impressive journalistic career.
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