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Italian American Cultural Fictions: From Diaspora to Globalization

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Francesca de Lucia

This book focuses on the development of Italian American cultural identity throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Italy is becoming a destination, rather than a starting point for immigrants. Immigration remains a source of tension and debate both in the United States and in Europe. Analyzing the evolution of Italian American identity, from diaspora to globalization, from emblematic to latent ethnicity, can thus prove insightful.

Disparate works, including novels, films and newspaper articles, both by Italian and non-Italian American authors illustrate this paradigm. The catalyst for this transformation is the Second World War, which allowed Italian Americans to take part in the struggle to liberate Italy from Fascism, establishing in this way a connection with their roots while adhering more closely to mainstream American society through participation in the conflict. Post-war expressions of Italian American culture include the development of women’s writing, cinematic interactions with American Jews and African Americans, and the works of two novelists, Don DeLillo and Anthony Giardina, who embody different aspects of latent ethnicity.

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Documenting Fascism and World War II in an Italian American Perspective

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The historical phase encompassing the development of Italian fascism between Benito Mussolini taking power in 1922 and the outbreak of the Second World War deeply altered the way in which Italian Americans related both to the United States and to their Italian roots. Italy’s position as a member of the Axis – and thus as an enemy of the United States from 1941 until the Armistice in 1943 – created a sense of laceration amongst Americans of Italian descent but ultimately the war was perceived by the majority of Italian American communities as a struggle to release Italy from the oppression of the Fascist dictatorship. The significant role played by Italian American soldiers during the Allied occupation of Italy, along with Italy’s post-war growth and subsequent close relationship with the United States, permitted Italian Americans to overcome the collective trauma of emigration. Consequently, Italian American identity started to express itself in a different fashion in the post-war years, gradually shifting from the emblematic representations characteristic of the great age of immigration to the latent ones that characterize the end of the twentieth century. This is the first of three chapters exploring the Italian American war experience in all its complexity; after a brief historical introduction it will focus on documents, drawn in particular from the ethnic press of the 1930s and 1940s and from Frank Capra’s propaganda films.

As for all the descendants of the immigration wave from Southern and Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth...

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