Italian-American Folklore: Proverbs, Songs, Games, Folktales, Foodways, Superstitions, Folk

Frances M. Malpezzi, Author, William M. Clements, With, W. K. McNeil, Designed by
Frances M. Malpezzi, Author, William M. Clements, With, W. K. McNeil, Designed by August House Publishers $14.95 (298p) ISBN 978-0-87483-278-5
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
Hardcover - 298 pages - 978-0-87483-279-2
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-87483-533-5
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Based on published research, fiction and interviews, this work offers an diverting overview of the popular cultural baggage--customs, beliefs and entertainments--that Italian immigrants brought to America (and some embellishments they added as they adapted to their new life). At best, the book informs without being too scholarly for the general reader (for example, a discussion of folk superstitions is introduced by the insight that some immigrant Italians found the Catholic Church in the U.S. to be more legalistic and formal than the Catholic Church in Italy). But at times the authors seem merely to be ticking items off a list, as when they enumerate folk medicine cures--rubbing urine on one's forehead or wearing a crown of lemon leaves to cure a headache--without hinting when, where or why the cures were used. However, those who grew up listening to folk tales and proverbs or hearing about St. Joseph's Day food offerings and the ``evil eye'' may page through this work for the fun of it or even because, as the authors note, such traditions ``help people know who they are.'' Malpezzi and Clements teach English and folklore at Arkansas State University. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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