Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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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