Work Title: Our Roots are Deep with Passion: Creative Nonfiction Collects New Essays by Italian-American Writers
Work Author(s): Lee Gutkind and Joanna Clapps Herman, editors
286 pages, Softcover $15.95
Reviewer: Caroline Sinkinson
In the story "Words and Rags," writes one editor, "Our dialect has the sounds of intimacy, the sounds of an enclosed hermetically sealed world." In this collection of twenty-one essays, the seal to the Italian-American experience is released for readers, who are held with a sense of intimacy by the authors.
The editors, both accomplished writers themselves, have compiled a moving assortment of works by Italian-American writers. Gutkind is the founding editor of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction, and an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Herman teaches creative writing at Manhattanville College and City College. The motivation for this collection was born at a dinner party attended by several Italian-American writers. The idea has transformed from that inception into this engrossing book.
The editors do not attempt to define the Italian-American experience. The complexity of each author's experience reveals the futility of brief definition and instead provides a rich understanding for readers, whether they are entering this culture for the first time or returning to their own memories.
The collection begins with Louise De Salvo's recollection of her grandfather, nicknamed "the drunk." She details the heritage of drinking, the sharing of wine known as "passing the saint." It was a habit rooted in the poverty of Italian farm workers, from whom her grandfather came. This story, like many others in the collection, hearkens back to the lifestyle and essence of Italy...