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Una Storia Segreta : The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment During World War II Paperback – June 1, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History of Italian American Evacuation and Internment during World War II looks at "both the secret shame of those who suffered the wartime restrictions, and the dirty little secret of those who imposed them." These words, from Lawrence DiStasi's (Dream Streets: The Big Book of Italian American Culture) introduction to his seminal book on the internment of Italian-Americans during WWII (with a foreword by Sandra M. Gilbert), reveal what Japanese-American detainees and their descendants already know too well about the wartime experience. DiStasi has marshaled a group of potent and moving essays personal narratives of ancestors and others who were detained, arrested, evacuated or who just disappeared and some more scholarly examinations of our government's treatment of the more than half a million Italian immigrants many of them naturalized U.S. citizens whose lives were turned upside down. B&w illus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Lawrence DiStasi is an editor, writer, and instructor at UC Berkeley Extension’s Fall Freshman Program and has been the Project Director of the traveling exhibit, Una Storia Segreta: When Italian Americans Were ‘Enemy Aliens,’ since 1994. He is author of Mal Occhio: The Underside of Vision (North Point Press, 1981) and Dream Streets: The Big Book of Italian American Culture (Harper & Row, 1989). He is president of the American Italian Historical Association’s Western Regional Chapter.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Heyday Books; 5th Printing edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1890771406
  • ISBN-13: 978-1890771409
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Not only does this book recover a missing piece of American history, it also helps to explain the dark side of rapid "assimilation" of Italian-Americans after WWII -- as well as the corresponding decline of spoken Italian and the exodus from close-knit Italian neighborhoods to the suburbs. A focus on the entire U.S., rather than primarily on California, could have made this book even stronger. Una Storia Segreta nevertheless bridges the gap between third-generation and younger Italian-Americans and their older relatives, revealing the history that grandparents wished to forget. The voices in this volume provoke nostalgic smiles and outraged tears.
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Una Storia Segreta: The Secret History Of Italian American Evacuation And Internment During World War II by researcher and historian Lawrence DiStasi is a shocking and revealing look into a little-known incident of 20th Century American history: Italian-American internments during World War II. Wartime law restricted the freedoms and demanded identity cards of 600,000 Italian "resident aliens"; some 10,000 of these along the West Coast were forcibly relocated; and 250 were imprisoned in military camps for up to two years. Even some naturalized Italian-American citizens were required to abandon their homes and businesses because the military deemed them too dangerous to reside in "strategic areas." Worst of all, these offenses were entirely ignored after the war's end, completely eclipsed by the similarly reprehensible internment that the government forced upon a much greater number of Japanese-Americans. Una Storia Segreta is an important and long overdue contribution to American World War II history shelves, for it sheds light on a topic chronically overlooked in traditional American history education and reading lists.
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I had heard of this years ago and had interacted a bit with Lawrence Distasi about this event in history. The next time I went home to see my family, I mentioned it to my mother ... who got a funny look on her face and ran upstairs. When she came back down, she had in her hand a pink booklet that I'd never seen before, with my grandfather's photograph inside. She told me about a time she remembered -- again, that I'd never heard about -- when the cops burst into their home when she was a child to confiscate their shortwave radio, that they used to engage in such subversive anti-American activities as listening to Jack Armstrong and the opera.

Italian-Americans don't talk about this much, mostly because after what happened to the Japanese-Americans, I don't think we feel that we have any business complaining. They really did have it so much worse. But without the awareness of how "soft around the edges" this whole part of history was, without knowing the whole, full extent of it, I fear that we won't recognize what the initial part of the slippery slope looks like. I fear that the next time this happens, Americans will say things like, "We won't put them in camps. We'll just register them, confiscate their sensitive property, or ask them to move out of sensitive areas," without realizing that that sort of thing IS the first step on the road to internment camps.

If we're going to stamp out this sort of virulence, we need to recognize what the first signs of the disease look like. And this is what they look like. You need to recognize the first gentle curve of the slippery slope in order to avoid stepping over it into the pit that lies beneath it.
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Thank you it was interesting to read on the american perspective having read the australian perspective and having relatives in Australia interned and others not interned with similar scenarios (one brother serving in the army whils't the other interned).

It saddened me to read about the number of industries/business/s closing as a result of internment.
Livelyhoods lost, relocation exploitation and the need to push aside traditions/culture as a result of their war time experiences.
It is wonderful to see that archives are preserved and history is acknowledging the contributions of Italians in America.
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A must read for all Italian Americans (and other ethnic groups). Makes you understand the struggle and,yes, the prejudices suffered by these and many other immigrants. For me as an Italo-American it was a shock and surprise that my ethnic people were treated as "aliens" as described herein. To think that "these" people left everything behind to find a new and "better" life in America. The only negative comment I would have about this book, is that it is a compendium of stories; nevertheless I strongly recommend it be read!
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It gave me a lot of information on things I had never read about and I am glad that I read this book.
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This is a very interesting book. As a person of Italian background and living on the Pacific Coast during WW 2, I remember some of the same stories. Such actions were especially hard on those without citizenship were being dogged by Federal official. In many cases they were watched even though they had 4 family members in the US armed forces.
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