- Filippo Salvatore (Author) and Domenic Cusmano (Translator)
Ancient Memories, Modern Identities. Guernica Editions (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Luigi Romeo (Author)
Canadian Poems--Bilingual Editions. Pentland (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Nicholas DeMaria Harney (Author)
Eh, Paesan! Being Italian in Toronto. University of Toronto Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Donna R. Gabaccia (Author)
Italy's Many Diasporas. University of Washington Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Jacqueline Samperi Mangan
At first glance these four books have little in common beyond Italian subject matter. Romeo writes intellectual and vibrant poetry; Gabaccia studies Italian global migration; Salvatore interviews young authors who reveal their ambivalent North American identities; and Harney explores the identities of Italian immigrants in Toronto. Yet each author illuminates the rich complexities of Italian migration in North America and in the world.
Gabaccia’s lengthy migration study shows the recent emergence of Italian identity. Since Italians were never a "victim Diaspora" like, for example, Africans and Jews, migrant Italians did not feel a great sense of loss for their nation and did not form a national community. It was common for the men to migrate and leave behind their families. Unlike persecuted groups, who fled their land and were unable to return, the Italian migrant had the intention of returning. Only in these past decades have Italians come to identify with a national identity, much of it stereotypical. Some migrants return to Italy to experience high fashion, car racing, Tuscan food and other "corporate versions of modern urban pleasures of Italian style." But the vast majority are descendants of the workers who travelled the world in search of economic security. These migrants distrust the Italian state and commit themselves more readily to their local community and family. The Catholic faith is the sole pillar for these globally dispersed Italian migrants whose identities are linked by Gabaccia to "the everyday pleasures—of food, family, parish and home place, all things that can be enjoyed and savoured anywhere in the world that people call home."
In Ancient Memories, Modern Identities Salvatore’s interviews recount Italian settlement stories in large cities like Montreal and Toronto. The birth and lives of the various "Little Italies" in Canada form the first part of the book. The second part traces the origin of the Italo-Canadian literary corpus from the early 1930’s onwards to its blossoming in the 1970s and beyond. Highlighted in this section are works by Liborio Lattoni, Mario Duliani, Giose Rimanelli, Pietro Corsi, Tonino Caticchio, Ermanno La Riccia, Dino Minni, Marco Micone, Mary Melfi, Lisa Carducci, Vittorio Rossi and Nino Ricci. Antonio D’Alfonso has most effectively disseminated Italian Canadian literature by founding Guernica Editions and focusing on literary works by minority writers. The third part of the book dicusses three film producers who describe the identity of an Italo-Canadian artist caught in a political ideology. Ancient Memories, Modern Identities reflects on the identity crisis that writers and artists must undergo in the modern Canadian world and the shadows of the ancient culture of their Italian villages that follow them.
Romeo’s Canadian Poems finds beauty in the memories of childhood, of Tropea, the hometown in Italy, and in the nature of a distant time. The poems "Non Sequitur" and "Quinta dimensione" denounce the madness of the human race. In the Preface and the Explanatory and Historical Notes, Romeo writes about the creation of the poems and their historical place in his life.
Nicholas DeMaria Harney writes about the Italians in Toronto and, transcending Italian stereotypes, studies the impact that Italian culture and people have had on an Anglo-Saxon Canadian city. Beyond the clichés of Mafia guys and poor ignorant peasants lies a reality that is contradictory and varied. Moving from how Italians perceived themselves and how they evolved in the social and political micro-structure of the city of Toronto, to the perception and occasional misperception of the Italians by the anglophone population, Harney digs deep into all social, historical, ideological and political strata of Italian identities. Schools and get-together bars, government and regional clubs, church and speciality shops, all contribute to keeping the Italian community healthy despite the conflicts within it. But most important is how the city of Toronto has been influenced by this dynamic culture.
What makes the Italian culture so popular among non-Italians and why has it been absorbed so readily by North Americans in these last decades? Is this popular culture one that Italian migrants perceive as congruent with their own identities? A kaleidoscope of answers is found in these very different books.
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MLA: Mangan, Jacqueline Samperi. Italian Migration. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 23 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #177 (Summer 2003), (Duncan, Wiebe, Jameson, Thérault, Martel). (pg. 145 - 147)
***Please note that the articles and reviews from the Canadian Literature website (www.canlit.ca) may not be the final versions as they are printed in the journal, as additional editing sometimes takes place between the two versions. If you are quoting from the website, please indicate the date accessed when citing the web version of reviews and articles.