Publisher description for The value of worthless lives : writing Italian American immigrant autobiographies / Ilaria Serra.


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The writer Giuseppe Prezzolini famously remarked that Italian immigrants left behind tears and sweat but not "words:" the men and women who made lives in America did so mostly in silence, their stories told in private. But stories there were, and with this revelatory book, these stories are no longer hidden.In this innovative portrait of the Italian-American experience, Ilaria Serraoffers the first comprehensive study of the largely ignored legacy of immigrant autobiographies, bringing to light fifty-eight fascinating works written from the late 19th to the mid-twentieth century. Scouring Italian and American archives, discovering memoirs, life stories, and tales in private houses and forgotten drawers, Serra looks at an extraordinary range of writing, some unpublished, some self-published, many written late in life. Here are the words, often thickly accented, of bootblacks and fruit-sellers, poets and film directors, anarchists and bricklayers and seamstresses, from big city slums and small frontier towns. Serra explores these works in fine-grained detail, organized them thematically to cover such themes as work, success, survival, change, and identity. Most of the selections are by unknown writers, some of whose works Serra translates here for the first time. Others-by such pioneering figures as Pascal d'Angelo and Constantino Pannunzio-are given fresh readings. Serra also features a strong selection by women writers, many of them little known.Straddling history and literature, Serra presents these autobiographies not simply as accounts of individual lives, but as imaginative records of the journey towards self-hood, and the forging of a new identity. The stories she so skillfully presents-direct, full of life, deeply moving-add immeasurably to our understanding of the Italian-American experience. Ilaria Serra writes widely on Italian and Italian-American culture and history; her books include Immagini di un Immaginario: L'emigrazione italiana negli Stati Uniti fra i due secoli (1890-1924). After graduating from Università Ca'Foscari in Venice, she received her Ph.D. at Florida Atlantic University, and has also taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, Purdue Uniuversity and Colgate University. She is [to come].Jacket photograph:Jacket design by:[back jacket]Praise for Ilaria Serra and The Value of Worthless Lives"The Value of Worthless Lives makes the reader care about ordinary and extraordinary men and women, workers, poetic natures, and spiritual seekers who lived through the trauma of migration and made efforts to pass their experiences on in autobiographical narratives." -Werner Sollors, Harvard University, author of Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture"Serra's exploration of previously ignored works provides us with a new dimension of the Italian American experience ...she has uncovered a lost treasure."- Fred Gardaphè,Stony Brook University, author of From Wiseguys to Wise Men: The Gangster and Italian American Masculinities "A trailblazing study of immigrant autobiographies. . .a wide-ranging, original, and precious contribution to ethnic and cultural studies bridging two worlds."-John Paul Russo, University of Miami, author of The Future Without A Past: The Humanities In A Technological Society "Of great interest to students and scholars of Italian-American studies, life-writing, ethnic and immigration studies, and multicultural studies."-William Boelhower,Louisiana State University, author of Through a Glass Darkly: Ethnic Semiosis in American Literature Fordham University PressNew Yorkwww.fordhampress.com


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Autobiography.
Immigrants -- United States -- Biography -- Authorship.
Italians -- United States -- Biography -- Authorship.
Italian Americans -- Biography -- Authorship.
Working class -- United States -- Biography -- Authorship.
Women -- United States -- Biography -- Authorship.