GROWING UP ITALIAN
These are joyful, sometimes unhappy and unusually frank memoirs of 24 celebrated Italian Americans who claim that being brought up in Italian households helped shape their personalities, lives and fortunes. Abundantly clear throughout GROWING UP ITALIAN is that joy, warmth, sadness, hard work, enmity, laughter, backbiting, love, prejudices, cultural habits, confi- dences, and conflicts are all part of that heritage, and mold their lives, for better or worse. The reader experiences all the emotions of this feisty and talented group, for the book teems with stories, both hilarious and woeful, of first-generation families and their hassle to cut a piece of the American pie. These memoir-profiles are taken from personal interviews between the subject and the author. Included are:
Mario Cuomo *Tony Bennett * Ken Auletta * Eleanor Smeal * Cardinal Bernardin * Senator D'Amato Geraldine Ferraro * architect Robert Venturi * artist Frank Stella * Reverend.Arthur Caliandro *actress Julie Bovasso * poet John Ciardi * racecar driver
Michael Andretti * therapist Aileen Sirey * airline
pilot Bonnie Tiburzi * opera singer Loretta Di Franco
poet Daniela Gioseffi * Bishop Francis J. Mugavero
Yogi Berra *novelist Gay Talese * Jeweler Helen Boehm
Artist Claudia DeMonte * Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
From Cardinal Bernardin: "My mother, a widow, had to work. So we'd eat American food during the week—it was quicker to make. On weekends she served polenta with a meat stew, or sauerkraut and sausage (she was from the North), and tiny hat-shaped ravioli."
From Yogi Berra: "My father made bricks in a kiln. With him, we were afraid to do something he didn't like. When he said we had a certain chore to do, we had better do it, or else. He didn't use a strap on us. He used his hands. They were like rock."
"This is a book about nostalgia, about a better world in which to have been nurtured. About a world which surely discriminated against Italian-Americans, but one also that nurtured their talents, as evidenced so well by the personal achievements recounted here. John Ciardi, who died on Easter Sunday last year, is Mrs. Cateura's most profound and touching contributor: 'I published a poem in the Atlantic Monthly once about Italy and Mussolini,' he says. 'Robert Lowell, the poet, wrote me a note saying it was the best Italian-American poem he had ever seen. And I thought, Does that son of a bitch think he is more American than I am? Because my name is Ciardi, he decided to hyphenate the poem. Had it been a Yankee name, he would have thought, Ah, a scholar who knows about Italy.'
"Geraldine Ferraro is the book's most scathing contrib utor when she talks about the paesani who abandoned her in 1984: 'Because I am Italian, I or my family is suspected of being gangsters. And I must say, that while we were heavily involved in a grueling presidential race, many of the leaders in our (Italian American) community…seemed ready to remain silent and let others shape events.' And Rudolph Giuliani is the most candid and provocative in his comments on the Mafia. "It is counterproductive for Italian-Americans to try to approach this problem by banning the use of a word or by censoring other people in what they say or do,' he declares. 'The most effective thing for Italian-Americans to do is deal with the truth.'"
Both paragraphs are from Richard Heffner's review, in The New York Times
"Full of gusto and great joy for the living of life which is what growing up Italian means. My only regret is I wasn't in it! If anyone wants to truly enjoy a fascinating narrative of delight, this book is what he's looking for."
Jack Valenti, President, Motion Picture Association of America
"The Italians are a special people and this is a special book. If I was not Irish this b ook would make me want to b e Italian. For warmth and love, they can't b e beat."
Father Andrew Greeley, author of The Cardinal Sins
"I was extremely touched by the reminiscences of these people—they are real, authentic—similar to my own experience. There are so many elements. It is a wonderful book, a great book."
Leda Sanford, the founding publisher of Attenzione magazine.
"This book with its 24 memoirs is enlightening and enchanting—it's a treasure—and I'm proud to be an Italian."
Brenda Vaccaro, TV and movie actress