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Elizabeth Street Paperback – October 4, 2011
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Book Description: In Elizabeth Street, Laurie Fabiano tells a remarkable and previously unheard story of the Italian immigrant experience at the start of the 20th century. Culled from her own family history, Fabiano paints an entrancing portrait of Giovanna Costa, who, reeling from personal tragedies, tries to make a new life in a new world. Shot through with the smells and sights of Scilla, Italy, and New York’s burgeoning Little Italy, this intoxicating story follows Giovanna as she finds companionship, celebrates the birth of a baby girl, takes pride in a growing business, and feels a sense of belonging on a family outing to Coney Island.
However, these modest successes are rewarded with the attention of the notorious Black Hand, a gang of brutal extortionists led by Lupo the Wolf. As the stakes grow higher and higher, readers share with Giovanna her desperate struggle to remain outside the fray, and then to fight for--and finally to save--that which is important above all else: family.
Amazon Exclusive: Maria Laurino Reviews Elizabeth Street
Maria Laurino is the author of the memoirs Old World Daughter, New World Mother, a meditation on contemporary feminism, and the national bestseller, Were You Always an Italian?, an exploration of ethnic identity. Laurino's journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and The Nation, and her essays have been widely anthologized. Read her exclusive guest review of Elizabeth Street:
When readers first meet Giovanna Costa, the protagonist of Elizabeth Street, she is a young woman about to get married in the small Italian fishing village of Scilla, situated between the Calabrian coast and Sicily’s Aeolian Islands. The town is home to the ancient story of Scylla, the once beautiful nymph turned mythical monster that devoured sailors trying to navigate the Straits of Messina. Midway through Laurie Fabiano’s page-turning novel, which is based on her own family history, Giovanna has landed in the New World but finds herself lodged between Scylla and Charybdis. She arrives grief stricken in New York after her beloved husband, Nunzio, has been killed on a badly managed construction site in Brooklyn. Eventually she will settle into an arranged second marriage, but her troubles continue to multiply. Giovanna will be forced to combat the nefarious forces of the Black Hand, the precursor to the Italian-American Mafia, which has threatened to tear apart her new family.
Supporting herself in New York first as a midwife, Giovanna teams up with a woman doctor from northern Italy. The two become close friends and the doctor shares medical knowledge that Giovanna will combine with her holistic midwifery skills. But Giovanna’s fate changes after deciding to open a small fruit and vegetable market with her new husband. The store is an easy source of potential revenue for criminals offering "protection services," and soon Giovanna’s family becomes their prey. With the same mix of disciplined study and the pinch of southern Italian mysticism that she applied to midwifery, Giovanna will take on the ruthless organized crime syndicate that has kidnapped her daughter and murdered the police lieutenant assigned to protect the neighborhood.
Mario Puzo once claimed, years after writing The Godfather, that he had based the infamous character of Don Corleone on his mother. Fabiano has created in Elizabeth Street a southern Italian heroine fighting those criminal forces that have long victimized poor and vulnerable immigrants. In this multigenerational, well-researched tale, the reader also learns interesting details of the common struggles facing southern Europeans coming to America--how, for instance, Ellis Island inspectors were instructed to mark northern and southern Italians as two separate races; and how the wages for common laborers in parts of the country were divided into three categories, the highest salary paid to "whites," the middle scale for "coloreds," and the lowest amount to "Italians."
Elizabeth Street is both a fascinating immigrant story and an intimate portrait of how a first-generation American--and the author’s own great-grandmother--outwits one of the most brutal crime organizations of the early 20th century. --Maria Laurino
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
First novelist Fabiano is dead-on in her portrait of the Italian-American immigrant experience. This engrossing cross-generational saga centers on the experiences of Giovanna Costa, from the small Italian fishing village where she is born to the bustling streets of New York's Lower East Side where she struggles to raise her family and make a living as a midwife after the death of her first husband. In America, the resourceful Giovanna and her second husband eventually open a fruit and vegetable stand, attracting the unwanted attentions of the notorious “Black Hand” crime organization. When Giovanni refuses to meet their demands, her daughter is kidnapped and held for ransom. Basing this story--including the kidnapping--on her own family's immigrant experiences, Fabiano provides a wealth of period detail, infusing the compulsively readable narrative with an authentic sense of time, place, and community. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I used to live in NYC - a stones throw from Mulberry St. "Elizabeth Street" is like a time machine, bringing to life Little Italy in a time I never knew but now can well imagine.
I wish I had been able to read this when I lived there ! Bravo.
Laura Fabiano does a truly amazing job of allowing her readers into her family lives to walk with them through their incredible journey. I feel blessed that I was able to meet Laura at a book signing and read her book. I have highly recommended this book to friends and family and everyone who reads it LOVES IT!! This is one book EVERYONE MUST READ!!! Thank you Laura!
It is captivating and fast-paced. It definitely reads like a novel and the historical element is just right for those who love history and those who do not. The balance struck was perfect.
The author captures a new immigrant's life in the ghetto, around the turn of the twentieth century, so that we can visualize what they experienced. Giovanna and her family are shown struggling in America but she is a very smart woman and learns quickly. When the Black Hand, the precursor to the mafia, kidnaps her 4 year old daughter, she survives it by showing her grit and street smarts.
This was an enjoyable read- a book I could not put down!
birthes, deathes, natural disasters, a lawsuit and a kidnapping through unwanted attention from the Black Hand. First of all, I want to state that I did enjoy the book. Giovanna is one gutsy heroine, and I was rooting for her and her family all the way through.
That said, there were some problems that I believe would be easily dealt with by a bit more editing. One was the persistent avoidance of the word "said." Characters mumbled and barked, growled and roared, and a whole lot more. IMHO, all that does is draw attention to how many synonyms the author knows and detracts from what the characters are actually saying. Second, I felt that the characters, while sympathetic, were basically divided into heroes or villains. The switches to the villains' viewpoints were abrupt and did nothing to develop their characters. I do think this book has the potential to be outstanding, it just needs more work. But again, I'm in the minority.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting novel about immigrants' life in America in the early 1900'sPublished 7 hours ago by Patricia J. Schultz
Learned about Italian life in NYC in early 1900's after immigration from Southern Italy in pursuit of a better life in America.Published 7 days ago by Anne Taber
I enjoyed this book very much. I chose to read it because my ancestry is all Italian. Laurie did a good job of making the characters come to life. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Larry Laureno
One of the best book about life in NYC in a gang environment for Italian Immigrants around.Published 19 days ago by Noel Castiglia
Ok for free book. No all that compelling but a good relaxing read. It did provide interesting historical perspective though.Published 20 days ago by Amazon Customer
An interesting story of an Italian family who came from
I enjoyed learning the lifestyle of these Italian family members though I didn't really fully get a sense of them... Read more
Not a fantastic read but OK. I found it very slow and chopped up almost to the point of being boring. Not one of my favoritesPublished 23 days ago by Suzanne Denn