DON'T TELL MAMA! The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing

Regina Barreca, Editor . Penguin $16 (545p) ISBN 978-0-14-200247-6

Five years ago, A. Kenneth Ciongoli and Jay Parini brought out the first collection of writing on the Italian-American experience, Beyond the Godfather. This year, in time for Columbus Day, comes this hefty, exhaustive anthology. Barreca, author of A Sitdown with the Sopranos and They Used to Call Me Snow White... but I Drifted, selected and edited these essays by more than 90 influential Italian-American writers. Following Barreca's introduction is a witty piece by her brother Hugo, who offers his impression of Italian-American storytelling: "it was considered to be telling close to the truth... if what you reported as your own actions had actually happened to somebody at one time or another." No such collection would be complete without selections from Gay Talese's Unto the Sons, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's Italian Days, Mario Puzo's The Godfather and Pietro di Donato's Christ in Concrete, considered to be the first great Italian-American novel. In "Food and Fatalism," Wally Lamb offers his recollections of growing up in Norwich, Conn.; in a selection from Were You Always an Italian?, Maria Laurino makes sense of such dialect words as "stunod," or idiot. Barreca also includes great writers who don't necessarily write about the immigrant experience, such as Carole Maso, Don DeLillo and Evan Hunter. This is an introduction not just to great Italian-American writing but to great literature.(Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
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