By: Dina Di Maio, ISDA Contributor
For this holiday season, how about giving the gift of a book by an Italian-American author? There is a rich collection of Italian-American books out there. Here are some suggestions, both new and classic, fiction and nonfiction.
- Italians of Northeastern Pennsylvania by Stephanie Longo. This book documents the history of the Italian immigrants in northeastern Pennsylvania and their descendants who keep their traditions alive.
- The Idea of the Ordinary by Carmine Sarracino. This book deals with the author’s life growing up in the community of Italian immigrants on Federal Hill, in Providence, Rhode Island.
- My Father’s Daughter, From Rome to Sicily by Gilda Morina Syverson. In this touching memoir, a daughter travels to Italy with her parents, visiting together the home of their ancestors.
- Sicily: Land of Love and Strife by Mark Spano. The companion book to the documentary of the same name, Sicily: Land of Love and Strife is the author’s journey to the homeland of his ancestors, a mesmerizing land with a rich history and hopeful future.
- Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People by Dina M. Di Maio. More than a food history, Authentic Italian critically examines Italian food as it has been defined by the media. This enlightening book explores how Italian immigrants shaped the culinary landscape of America.
- The Witch of Little Italy by Suzanne Palmieri. With the help of magic, a young woman uncovers family secrets and finds her way in Bronx’s Little Italy.
- Wait Until Spring, Bandini by John Fante. “He was cold and there were holes in his shoes. That morning he had patched the holes on the inside with pieces of cardboard from a macaroni box. The macaroni in that box was not paid for.” So begins the first novel from this Depression-era author. A dark and beautifully evocative portrait of Italian immigrants in Colorado.
- Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini and David Rensin. Told in his own words, this book is about the World War II POW, Olympian and subject of the movie Unbroken, Louis Zamperini.
- Christ in Concrete by Pietro di Donato. One of the first Italian-American novels, this heart-wrenching work is an enlightening portrait of the often dangerous working conditions of the early immigrants.
- Children of Italy by Christine Simolke. An Italian immigrant comes to America to find work, but he has a secret that could ruin all that he has built.
The publishing industry does a poor job promoting Italian-American voices. No doubt, prejudice exists in publishing. However, I believe we can make a community that transcends the cutthroat world of publishing by supporting one another’s projects and giving credit when we find inspiration in someone’s work.
Because I saw a need for this supportive community, I created a book club to read Italian-American writers. You can do that too, or you can lobby your current book club to add more Italian-American writers to their list. As you can see on the short list above, there are lots to choose from, and you don’t have to be Italian American to enjoy them!
By buying books written by Italian-American authors, you can help reclaim the way in which our story is told and preserve the essence of our culture. In order for our history, our experience, our truth to be continued, honored, and passed down to future generations, we must read the work of our authors.
Dina M. Di Maio is a New York- and Tennessee-licensed lawyer with an MFA in creative writing from NYU. She has written and/or edited for Glamour, Family Circle, Time Out New York, and the American Bar Association. She is the author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People. She is also a book reviewer for Ovunque Siamo, a literary journal of Italian-American writing.
Editor’s note: ISDA’s “12 Days” run from Dec. 14-Dec. 25 to promote Italian and Italian-American traditions, art, literature, stories and more. Per the Christian calendar, the actual 12 Days of Christmas are celebrated from Dec. 25 to Jan. 5.