From Publishers Weekly
Recalling guidos, gavones and gedrools, Laurino presents a concise but stimulating look at Italian-American culture as a model for the immigrant experience as a whole. The author, a third-generation Italian-American, grew up in 1950s New Jersey as a minority whose ethnicity was long stifled. Not until then-Governor Mario Cuomo asked her, "Were you always an Italian?" did she consider the implications of her roots and identity. This entertaining memoir chronicles Laurino's experiences from childhood to marriage, eventually getting to the heart of what it means to be Italian in America. She creatively approaches various cultural facets, from clothing to politics to religion, with candor and personality, using specific examples to illustrate general cultural themes. Her take on Italian fashion is amusing; she claims that the contrasting styles of Versace and Armani are symbols of the dichotomy faced by many immigrants and their families: cutting-edge boldness vs. European class. The historically tumultuous situation in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, serves as an example of the friction between Italians and other cultural groups in this country, and Laurino suggests that the Italian-American experience, rife with stereotypes and struggles, is not unlike that of African-, Korean- and Ecuadorian-Americans. She covers the hallmarks of Italian culture, including dialect, family and faith. In examining each component, Laurino openly expresses the mixed feelings of pride and embarrassment she felt as a child, which eventually developed into understanding and veneration. This book will serve as a welcome reminder that there is more to Italian culture than The Sopranos. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Laurino, a New York writer who grew up in suburban New Jersey and was once a speechwriter for NYC mayor David Dinkins, explores the disconnect that many Italian Americans, rooted in the rocky soil of Southern Italy, feel between images from Bensonhurst and Mafia movies, on one hand, and Northern Italian style and verve on the other. Her essays ask questions that follow like beads on a rosary: Do we smell bad? Is our food weird? Why is it so hard to accept leisure in our lives? Her deconstruction of Italian dialect--captured snatches of parents' and grandparents' unwritten past in words like gavone and stunodis mesmerizing, both as a journalist's examination of words and their uses and as a woman's study of what makes her herself. And her witty analysis of the difference between Versace and Armani from an Italian American standpoint is itself worth the price of admission. Essential for Italian Americans, enlightening for anyone else. GraceAnne A. DeCandido
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