What happens when a director of a university press is passionate about a book but shy of cash to publish it?
He starts fundraising.
Robert Oppedisano, the director of Fordham University Press, acquired a book entitled Italoamericana from Italy’s Mondadori Press in 2005. It’s a monster collection of some of the earliest Italian-American writing, spanning the years 1880 to 1943, and includes works on influential Italian-American writers, performers, artists, and composers.
The volume runs about 800 pages, and some of the book has been written in various Italian dialects. Oppedisano figures he will need at least $75,000 to edit and translate Italoamericana. He hopes to print about 6000 copies in combined paper (about $30) and cloth ($49.95).
As an Italian-American, Oppedisano believes in this book, which was edited by Francesco Durante, an editor and journalist at the Corriere del Mezzogiorno, the largest newspaper in Southern Italy. Durante is also the Italian translator of such American authors as Brett Easton Ellis, Raymond Carver, Somerset Maugham, and John Fante.
"Italian-American culture is rich and diverse," says Oppedisano. "But so much has been lost or forgotten, so much lives in another language."
He has reached out to Italian-American writers and scholars for support, including Bill Tonelli (editor of The Italian American Reader), Fred L. Gardaphè (From Wiseguys to Wise Men), Josephine Gattuso Hendin (The Right Thing To Do), and Robert Viscusi (president of the Italian American Writers Association).
Recently, Oppedisano received $50,000 ($25,000 of which is a challenge grant) from Laura Baudo Sillerman. Ms. Sillerman herself is Italian-American and a supporter of literary organizations, such as Poets House. She also happens to be the wife of Robert F.X. Sillerman, whose company holds 85% interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises.