Embroidered Stories

For Italian immigrants and their descendants, needlework represents a marker of identity, a cultural touchstone as powerful as pasta and Neapolitan music. Out of the artifacts of their memory and imagination, Italian immigrants and their descendants used embroidering, sewing, knitting, and crocheting to help define who they were and who they have become. This book is an interdisciplinary collection of creative work by authors of Italian origin and academic essays. The creative works from thirty-seven contributors include memoir, poetry, and visual arts while the collection as a whole explores a multitude of experiences about and approaches to needlework and immigration from a transnational perspective, spanning the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century.

At the center of the book, over thirty illustrations represent Italian immigrant women's needlework. The text reveals the many processes by which a simple object, or even the memory of that object, becomes something else through literary, visual, performance, ethnographic, or critical reimagining. While primarily concerned with interpretations of needlework rather than the needlework itself, the editors and contributors to Embroidered Stories remain mindful of its history and its associated cultural values, which Italian immigrants brought with them to the United States, Canada, Australia, and Argentina and passed on to their descendants.


 

Our Roots
"A historic landmark in the literature of the Italian-American experience....Essential reading."
— Gay Talese, author of A WRITER'S LIFE

In the twenty-one nonfiction narratives collected in Our Roots Are Deep with Passion, established and emerging writers with family ties to Italy reflect on the ways that their lives have been accented with uniquely Italian-American flavors. Several of the essays breathe new life into the time-honored theme of family—Louise DeSalvo honors her grandfather, nick-named “the drunk” because he spent his life of hard work drinking wine instead of water, and James Vescovi portrays the close of the stormy relationship between his father and grandmother. Other stories tackle the mystical side of Italian-American life, like Laura Valeri’s account of a summer vacation séance in Sardinia that goes eerily awry. And elsewhere, Stephanie Susnjara charts the history of garlic in society and her kitchen, and Gina Barreca offers an unabashed confession of congenital jealousy.

Lee Gutkind, founding editor of Creative Nonfiction, the nation’s premier nonfiction prose literary journal, and Joanna Clapps Herman have brought together artful essays by novelists, scholars, critics, and memoirists from across the country. The pieces are as varied as their authors, but all explore the unique intersections of language, tradition, cuisine, and culture that characterize the diverse experience of Americans of Italian heritage.


 

Wild Dreams
"...Recognizes the often poignant experiences of people who live in two cultures, and who try to preserve the one and be understood by the other."
— COUNCIL ON NATIONAL LITERATURES

For more than thirty years, the journal Italian Americana has been home to the writers who have sparked an extraordinary literary explosion in Italian-American culture. Across twenty-five volumes, its poets, memoirists, story-tellers, and other voices bridged generations to forge a brilliant body of expressive works that help define an Italian-American imagination.

Wild Dreams offers the very best from those pages: sixty-three pieces—fiction, memoir, poetry, story, and interview—that range widely in style and sentiment, tracing the arc of an immigrant culture’s coming of age in America. What stories do Italian Americans tell about themselves? How do some of America’s best writers deal with complicated questions of identity in their art?

Organized by provocative themes—Ancestors, The Sacred and the Profane, Love and Anger, Birth and Death, Art and Self—the selections document the evolution of Italian-American literature. From John Fante’s “My Father’s God,” his classic story of religious subversion and memoirs by Dennis Barone and Jerre Mangione to a brace of poets, selected by Dana Gioia and Michael Palma, ranging from John Ciardi, Jay Parini, and Mary Jo Salter to George Guida and Rachel Guido de Vries.

There are also stories alive with the Italian folk tradition (Tony Ardizzone and Louisa Ermelino), and others sleekly experimental (Mary Caponegro, Rosalind Palermo Stevenson). Other pieces— including an unforgettable interview with Camille Paglia—are Italian-American takes on the culture at large.


 

Anthologies
"...[Don't Tell Mama] is an introduction not just to great Italian-American writing but to great literature."
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Joanna Clapps Herman's work has also appeared in the following anthologies:
• "Stitching Our Voices Together," Embroidered Lines and Cut Threads: Women’s Domestic Needlework in the Italian Diaspora, Edited by Edvige Giunta and Joseph Sciorra, University of Mississippi Press. Forthcoming.
• "My Aboriginal Women," Lavanderia: Wash, Women and Word. Sunbelt Publications, Fall 2009. Winner of the 16th Annual San Diego Book Awards Association for Best Anthology.
• "My Homer," Oral History, Oral Culture, and Italian Americans, Ed. Dr. Luisa Del Giudice, Palgrave, October 2009.
• "Papone," in Don't Tell Mama: The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing. Edited by Regina Barreca. Penguin, 2002.
• "Coffee And," The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture. Edited by Edvige Guinta and Louise DeSalvo. Feminist Press, 2002.