Volume XXXV No. 1 Winter 2017

Volume XXXV No. 1 Winter 2017

Table of Contents

  • Letter from the Editor1
  • Notes on Contributors5
  • Protection of Italian Laborers on U.S. Soil:Proposals of a Federal Anti-Lynching Law and Relations Between Italy and the United States/
    Patrizia Fama Stahle
  • Alien Enemy M68-279: The Unresolved Case of Vincenzo Beltrone/
    Roslyn Bernstein
  • Featured Poet Anne Marie Macari, Essay:
    • Train41
    • Alligator42
    • Whose Dream?43
  • Growing Up in Brooklyn/Richard Parisio44
  • ruby-throated hummingbird/Melissa Eleftherion45
  • Flamingos/Catherine Esposito Prescott46
  • The Assumption (Ocean City, NJ)/John Ortenzio Bargowski47
  • Florence in Flames/Elton Glaser48
  • Devil-Girl Ghazal/Danielle Zaccagnino49
  • Balancing, Truing, Personal Service/Gianna Russo50
  • St. Mary’s Church/B. Amore51
  • Late Lamented/Wendy Taylor Carlisle52
  • In the Corner of the Living/Janine Certo53
  • Friday Morning, Outside Bagstone/Pat Valdata54
  • Looking For Mary Oliver/Kestra Forest55
  • Why the Good Are Needed/Basil Rosa59
    Creative Non-fiction
  • Notes on a Culinary Education/Toti O’Brien67
  • Review Essay: The Achievement of Dana Gioia: 99 Poems: New and Selected
    (Stephen Massimilla)
  • Luxus. The Sumptuous Arts of Greek and Rome by Kenneth Lapatin
    (Han Tran)
  • Zero K by Don DeLillo
    (Daniela Daniele)
  • Classical Masculinity and the Spectacular Body in Film: The Mighty Sons of Hercules by Daniel O’Brien
    (Joshua C. Davies)
  • Beyond Memory: Italian Protestants in Italy and America by Dennis Barone
    (Robert Casillo)
  • Ecocritical Approaches to Italian Culture and Literature: The Denatured Wildedited by Pasquale Verdicchio
    (John Agnew)
  • Immigration, Ethnicity, and Class in AmericanWriting, 1830-1860: Reading the Stranger by Leonardo Buonomo
    (Mark Cirino)
  • Italian Women in Chicago: Madonna mia! QUI debbo vivere” (You mean I have to live HERE?) by Dominic Candeloro
    (Giuseppina Botta)
  • The Italian American Table: Food, Family, and Community in New York City by Simone Cinotto
    (Salvatore Musumeci)
  • Sabato Rodia’s Towers in Watts: Art, Migrations, Development edited by Luisa Del Giudice
    (Nathan J. Timpano)
  • Corradino. A Tragedy by Francesa Maria Pagano
    (Maria Galli Stampino)
  • Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown directed by Eric Murphy
    (Ryan Calabretta-Sajder)
  • Upcycling Paumanok by Ned Balbo
    (Maria Serena Marchesi)
  • Human Directional by Diane Raptosh
    (John Paul Russo)

    Letter from the Editor

    Carla A. Simonini

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the Winter 2017 issue of Italian Americana! This issue goes to press at a formative juncture in U.S. immigration politics, falling as it does on the heels of President Trump’s executive order, which bars for 90 days people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), bans all refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely. At the time of this writing several lawsuits have been filed against the president’s order on the grounds that it is illegal and unconstitutional, and a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling to suspend it. Proponents of the ban claim that the president has the executive power to enact orders aimed at protecting its citizens from terrorist attacks and that the ban effectively represents a prudent and necessary measure in support of our national security. Opponents, meanwhile, cite both legal and moral grounds, arguing that it not only violates the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of origin, but also betrays our fundamental American values as a nation founded by immigrants. As Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has stated, “if you scratch an American family, sooner or later, you’ll find an immigrant ancestor.” It should be noted that the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted as a response to and remediation of previous restrictive immigration acts based on quota systems. In a highly symbolic gesture, President Johnson signed it into law at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, signaling a new era aimed at righting the injustices and discriminatory practices that characterized previous U.S. immigration policy and the treatment of resident aliens in the U.S. We would do well to reflect that one of the groups that was negatively affected by early restrictive immigration legislation was the Italian-American community.

The two articles we have chosen for the current issue in fact deal with episodes of discrimination against Italian Americans that have been largely overlooked by historians and forgotten in our cultural memory. Patrizia Fama Stahle’s scholarly article analyzes the diplomatic crises, which swirled around the lynching of Italian immigrant laborers in the United States before World War I and the question of whether there should be a federal anti-lynching law. Roslyn Bernstein’s journalistic piece, “Enemy Alien: The Unresolved Case of Vincenzo Beltrone,” meanwhile, examines the arrest, conviction and internment of poet and journalist Vincenzo Beltrone as an alien enemy during World War II. Despite contradictory evidence as to the extent of and the threat posed by the “anti-American” activities for which he was convicted and the fact that he had spent “all of his conscious life” living in the U.S. and had initially applied for citizenship in 1937—four years before his arrest—his post-war petitions for citizenship were summarily denied and he died never having been recognized as a citizen of the country to which he consistently proclaimed his loyalty.

In our other sections, the poetry review team, led by editor Maria Terrone, has once again selected and organized an array of expressive and compelling poems. Featured poet Anne Marie Macari, in her introductory essay “Beginnings,” reflects on the importance of story-telling and the transmission of oral history within the Italian-American family, a theme which resonates with the investigation of the historical events recounted in the articles referenced above. She writes, “There are times when you know that you must break open the narrative you have made of your life, to question the things you believe and the direction you are going.” I feel it would behoove us all, descendants of immigrants, to turn a critical eye towards the experiences that shaped our ancestors’ American journey and led us to the position of privilege we occupy today in U.S. society.

Our creative works feature Toti O’Brien’s memoir “Notes on a Culinary Education,” in which the author explores how her Italian ethnic heritage has nourished her, both literally and figuratively, through the acts and rituals surrounding the preparation and consumption of biancomangiare (meringue). Basil Rosa’s short story “Why the Good are Needed” similarly focuses on food and nourishment in relation to the Italian-American family, opening with reflections on the narrator’s childhood hunger, played out against his mother’s insistence that he find and bring home his drunkard father before the family can sit and eat. Our “Book Review” section, under the astute direction of John Paul Russo, offers reviews of fourteen different works, ranging from poetry anthologies and novels to scholarly works rooted in the humanities, social sciences and literature.

Finally, in keeping with our commitment to examine in each issue an aspect of the Italian-American experience in Youngstown, OH, the journal’s host city, we have included a review of filmmaker Eric Murphy’s documentary Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown and a brief interview with the filmmaker. Murphy’s documentary presents the life and times of James (Jim) Anthony Traficant, Jr. (1941-2014), the controversial U.S. Congressman from Youngstown, Ohio who served in the House of Representatives from January 3, 1985 to July 24, 2002. Of Italian and Slovak ancestry, Traficant was known for his flamboyant style and populist politics, which included wearing unstylish ties, positioning himself as an outsider “Bangin’ away in D.C.” and a strong stance in favor of immigration restriction and stronger sanctions on illegal immigrants. Traficant was eventually expelled from Congress after being convicted of racketeering in 2002, but retained a strong cadre of supporters and an active voice in local politics up until his premature death in 2014. In many ways, Traficant can be viewed as a precursor to our current political state. What can we learn by examining the arc of his career, and how can we interpret his respective accomplishments and foibles?

In conclusion, I would once again like to thank all the members of the editorial team, led by John Paul Russo, Maria Terrone and Christine Palamidessi Moore, my chair Dr. John Sarkissian, my intrepid and incredibly talented editorial assistant Tom Slagle, and all the members of the advisory board for their dedication and contributions to the Winter 2017 issue. In light of the current debate on U.S. policy regarding immigration, I encourage our readers to further explore Italian-American history and how the U.S. government has viewed and treated Italian immigrants in past decades. Anthony Tamburri’s recently published article (available online) “When We Were the Muslims: President Trump’s Executive Order and the Immigrant History of my Grandmother,” is a good place to start.

I thank our readers for their continued support. For up-dates and information on Italian Americana please consult our website: http://italianamericana.ysu.edu/.


Carla A. Simonini