Tuesday, April 23

Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Nativity

Photo by Joanna Clapps Herman. Stylized by Pummarola staff. by Joanna Clapps Herman I am strolling on the streets of Aix en Provence in a brilliant penetrating Mediterranean summer afternoon. The dry heat carries me up a gently sloping street lined with small shops and stalls: I’m on my way to meet up with my boyfriend, Jon, in a café. In the good heat, on this lively street and in the pleasure of being where I am, I seek now a bit of shade from the overhanging awnings (or was it just the shade of the buildings), now more sun. The street is filled with tourists coming back out into the afternoon after cooling naps behind closed wood shutters in small hotels. We wear espadrilles, colorful sundresses. We carry simple straw bags we’ve purchased only the day before on similar streets...
Christmas Eve at Nonna Marcella’s house
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Christmas Eve at Nonna Marcella’s house

by Federica Trabucchi It was the most magical time of the year. The time we used to wait for during all the other months since we were kids, but also as grown ups. I remember the party atmosphere that filled the days before Christmas Eve and that day itself. So, we used to have dinner at Nonna Marcella’s home for Christmas Eve. She was from Taranto, Puglia, Southern Italy, but she moved to Carrara with my grandpa—who was from Naples—after they got married because he came here to work. Now, in Carrara, there isn’t a big tradition about Christmas Eve: People usually celebrate Christmas Day at lunch, on the 25th of December, and most families don’t do anything the night before. On the contrary, in the south of Italy much importance is given to the night of the 24th December, maybe e...
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity, Stracciatella: A Sprinkling of This & That

The Slap!

Three Italian Women Remember: A small collaboration. We, in the Italian American community, are used to using our hands in perhaps one too many ways: to talk, to make, to garden, to cook, to hammer. But one other way is to give a decent smack to a friend, in a loving way to say hello; or to express an exclamative, “What a great idea!”; or provide a gentle back and forth on the shoulder which means, “Get out of here, that’s ridiculous.” My father said that a smack was dusting the other person off. Getting rid of them so to speak. In this dialogue between the three of us in a 100-word writing group, each of us wrote a piece, randomly, unexpectedly about slapping and smacking. We think they belong together.  I’m going give you such a . . . Slap We were always together; our pa...
I Am A Cuban Sandwich
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

I Am A Cuban Sandwich

The life and origins of an Italian-Cuban-Spanish Floridian by Mary-Ellen and Richard DiPietra Editor's note: What follows is an excerpt from I Am A Cuban Sandwich. NONNO In the Pais Vasco, the Basque Country, a small region in the rugged mountains of Northern Spain, a young girl spoke to a young man, words that would change everything. “Yes” She said. Then she did something no one in her tight-knit family had ever done before. She left….for America. At the same time stone mason from Alessandro della Rocca, Sicily had just come over to the states and landed somehow in Kankakee, IL, when he received word from relatives that a new movie house was being built in Tampa, Florida. This grand palace was to be in a Mediterranean design and they were looking for Old World craftsmen w...
Elena Ferrante and Me. I Don’t Know Her, She Knows Me
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Elena Ferrante and Me. I Don’t Know Her, She Knows Me

by Sara Marinelli I had to wait five long years for Elena Ferrante’s next book after her last one, The Lost Daughter (2006). My Brilliant Friend, the first volume of what became the world famous quartet, came out in Italy toward the end of 2011. I had moved to San Francisco from Naples about two years earlier, and among my dearest belongings I had carried Ferrante’s books in my suitcases for fear of losing them in the shipment boxes that would join me later. My next visit to Italy was planned for the summer, and I couldn’t wait any further to read her new book. I called a friend in Italy and asked him to mail me the book as soon as it hit the bookstores. A week later, winning the battle against the Italian mailing system, my object of desire made it to my door in San Francisco. The ...
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Benedicaria – The Blessing Way of Southern Italian Folk Medicine

by Gail Faith Edwards Editor’s note: This article republished by permission from gailfaithedwards.com In the remote mountain villages of Southern Italia, like ours, the old ways still thrive. We are a tribal culture, an indigenous people, descendants of the ancient Lucana Tribe; we are remembered as the People of the Sacred Wood, of the White Light. Our animal totems are the wolf and the deer. Our sacred traditions have been passed along orally, for many thousands of years. We speak a variation of the Neapolitan dialect, use hand signals and glances, wear protective charms and amulets, and recite secret prayers that have been handed down through our family lines for generations. We pray with a string of beads called a rosary. We light candles when making offerings, petit...
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Who’s Allowed in the “Melting Pot?”: The Impact of Whiteness on the Assimilation of Italian Identities

by Frances Bartolutti (They/She) It’s fascinating how literally wearing your culture on your sleeve for a day can open up a can of worms you’ve never considered. This fall, the school where I work on the West Side of Chicago had a Cultural Heritage spirit day for our Homecoming week. As a teacher, I try to participate in all the school-wide activities I can, so I wanted to go all out for Cultural Heritage day. I dug my Italian flag out of the closet and wore it as a cape for the entire day. During my 3rd period class, one of my students told me that I was the first Italian person he’d ever met. While I seriously doubt that since I know at least three other Italian-American staff members at North-Grand, his statement stuck with me, and not for the reasons you might suspect. His labe...
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

Benedicaria – The Blessing Way of Southern Italian Folk Medicine, Part 1 

by Gail Faith Edwards Republished with permission from gailfaithedwards.com. In the remote mountain villages of Southern Italia, like ours, the old ways still thrive. We are a tribal culture, an indigenous people, descendants of the ancient Lucana Tribe; we are remembered as the People of the Sacred Wood, of the White Light. Our animal totems are the wolf and the deer. Our sacred traditions have been passed along orally, for many thousands of years. We speak a variation of the Neapolitan dialect, use hand signals and glances, wear protective charms and amulets, and recite secret prayers that have been handed down through our family lines for generations. We pray with a string of beads called a rosary. We light candles when making offerings, petitions, prayers and blessings. We ...
The Autumn and Fall of Italian Workerism
Bella Figura: On Italian American Identity

The Autumn and Fall of Italian Workerism

by David Broder Originally published in Catalyst Vol. 3 No. 4 Winter 2020 Across the West, the last four decades have been marked by the large-scale collapse of the labor movement. Not only have trade unions withered but so have, with few exceptions, the social-democratic and communist parties and their roots in working-class life. Neoliberalism has not only created new market structures, reduced welfare provision, and privatized industries, it has also pulverized the social basis of many old working-class institutions. Yet as crisis-struck neoliberalism continues to spark all manner of social revolt, many activists insist that the fall of the mass parties is not such a disaster. Their demise is either celebrated — a liberation from bureaucratic control, opening up space for mo...