Archive for June, 2011

As alluring and romantic a notion as it might be, “la dolce vita” never truly applied to all Italians, and certainly not to those who left Italy to improve their lives in America. Similarly, growing up Italian American was far more nuanced than the typical picture of huge family gatherings, a table spilling over with sumptuous foods, and Nonno at the head of the table presiding magnanimously over his happy, laughing brood. Yet, much of the literature written by and about Italian Americans has mostly perpetuated this sentimental view.

One of the difficulties an Italian American writer faces is in revealing raw truths about one’s family. Difficult, because of the unwritten rule that Italian family members do not air their dirty laundry in public. Doing so is a sign of disrespect and disloyalty to the family. A family’s skeletons stay in the closet, and often remain hidden, even father from son, mother from daughter, husband from wife, but certainly and always from strangers.

But in the new book Anarchist Bastard by Joanna Clapps Herman (yes, Clapps is an Italian surname and can be found in some phone books of the Basilicata region), the author treads where few others have dared. In what must have been a personally difficult decision, Clapps tells the story of her Italian American family’s life in Waterbury, Connecticut. Her tale covers the good and the expected, and relates experiences that many Italian Americans will easily identify with. What sets the book apart from other Italian-theme literature, however, is that Clapps also bares many of her family’s failings and serious flaws, shedding light on some dark corners of the family’s past.

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 U.S. Ambassador David H. Thorne’s statement on Lady Gaga’s participation to the 2011 EuroPride

I am delighted to hear that Lady Gaga has agreed to participate in EuroPride Roma 2011.  Lady Gaga has been a public advocate for LGBT issues, which are very important to  us.

As Secretary Clinton says regularly: “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights.”  I am very proud to have an Italian-American artist of her stature visit  Rome and we look forward to the concert.

SOURCE:  US Embassy in Italy

Posted in Italian Americans|Tagged David Thorne, Lady  Gaga|

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Many years ago, Washington lawyer Joe Grano, after returning to Washington from a trip to Rome, Italy, realized that the two cities shared more than just their status as capital cities. Joe saw that the arts and architecture of the two cities were similar, of course, but he also noted that perhaps those similarities were not accidental but deliberate.

Joe Grano and Gianni Alemanno

As Joe explained to CiaoAmerica!, “The American Founding Fathers chose a republic as their preferred form of government after having studied extensively the ‘constitution’ of the Roman Republic. Once it was decided to create a new city for the Seat of Government, it was only natural that they chose Roman architecture for their main public buildings. This was a deliberate decision of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. It is certainly not accidental that the three buildings that represent the legislative, executive and judicial branches, i.e. The Capitol, the White House and the  Supreme Court building are ultimately derived from Roman models, albeit two from an indirect route. Indeed, Jefferson highly recommended a rotunda for the new U.S. Capitol building.”

Joe Grano  decided to act on his observations and over the years became the force behind efforts to join Rome and Washington in a “Sister Cities ” agreement.

But even before that campaign, Joe founded the Constantino Brumidi Society and began efforts to have, among others, Constantino Brumidi, the “Michelangelo of the Nation’s Capitol,” recognized by the U.S. Congress.  Eventually, through his tireless efforts, and his ceaseless prodding of national Italian American organizations, Congress  posthumously awarded Brumidi a Congressional Gold Medal.

Now that the medal has been minted, Joe is indefatigably prodding appropriate Washington institutions to hold a ceremony to commemorate the minting of the medal.

This past Tuesday, Joe sat among the invited guests witnessing the signing ceremony of the “Sister Cities” agreement. He must have felt a moment of satisfaction as he watched the Mayor of  Rome,  Gianni Alemmanno, and the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray sign the document in the historic John Wilson Building, seat of the D.C. government.   Outside the building, the U.S., D.C. and Italian flags waved in the breeze.

Joe recalls that he first brought the “Sister City” idea to the attention of the administration of former DC Mayor Anthony Williams and enlisted the help of other local groups, including SMATCH.  However, by the time the then-Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, expressed an interest in signing an agreement, the city elected a new mayor.  Under the following Mayor, Adrian Fenty, whose mother Janet  Perno  Fenty is incidentally Italian American, a series of meetings were held with heads of local groups and distinguished Washingtonians to draft a protocol and agreement. Early  in 2008, the draft protocol was approved by Mayor Fenty and then transmitted to Rome. Unfortunately, soon after it was sent, Veltroni resigned as mayor.  Read more . . .

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MTV’s Jersey Shore has been an embarrassment to Italian Americans since its inception.  It’s no surprise that Wall Street Journal writer Stacy Meichtry  says that the casting of Jersey Shore in Florence, Italy , is creating a “culture clash.”  In the story, which appears on the front page of today’s Journal, Meichtry writes that the Jersey shore cast is getting “a cold shoulder in Italy.”   The cultural superintendent for the city of Florence, has banned the Jersey Shore cast from filming in any of the city’s hallowed museum.”   Andre Dimino, former president of UNICO, a national Italian American group, has branded Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi as the country’s worst ever export after she crashed into an Italian police car this weekend.  “She really is the lowest of the low and will do anything for attention, even hitting a police car.”  “She is our worst ever export and is an embarrassment for Italian Americans and our whole country.” said Dimino to a reporter.  We are sure Italians will agree!

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