The Italian American Experience in New Haven: Images and Oral Histories

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Drawing on interviews as well as family and archival photographs, The Italian American Experience in New Haven weaves a tapestry of social, political, and cultural history, offering a vital supplement to our understanding of the Italian immigrant experience in the United States. Members of New Haven's Italian American community evoke the rhythms of the streets and the pulse of life in New Haven's old ethnic neighborhoods, describing how they mingled with other ethnic and racial groups in the shared spaces of neighborhoods, apartment houses, corner stores, churches, playing fields, and schools. They also touch upon the great events that shaped the twentieth century - the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and World War II - and reveal the unknown working history of Italian immigrant women who toiled under terrible working conditions in New Haven's shirt factories and who sacrificed dreams of education and careers for the immediate economic well-being of their families. Taken together, these interviews and photographs offer a social history of a vibrant immigrant community.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As he lovingly did in his book on Boston's North End in Portrait of an Italian American Neighborhood, Riccio narrates the history of New Haven through the stories and photos of the Italian-Americans who lived in and helped build the city. Be it the Annex, Wooster Square or Legion Avenue, Italians had lived and worked there since the first wave of immigration in the late 19th century. Riccio divides the story into chapters that encapsulate moments in history: "The Journey to America: Life on the Ships," "A New Life in New Haven," "The Depression in New Haven," "Highways and Urban Renewal: New Haven Changed Forever." The oral test to get citizenship in the U.S. was a terrifying ordeal, as many of these stories attest, and in one, a gentleman sweating profusely, is asked by the judge, "What flies above the court house?" The judge expects the answer to be "the American flag," but the nervous gentleman aptly replies, "pigeons." Even among Italians, there was a division between northerners and southerners (a large portion of whom hailed from Campania), with the minority of northerners looking down on the majority who came from the mezzogiorno. These are not always your stereotypical portraits of big happy Italian families, but instead, stories of the struggles Italian-Americans endured-and in several ways their stories are the stories of so many of those who immigrated to this country. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791467732
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2006
  • Series: SUNY series in Italian/American Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 472
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony V. Riccio is Stacks Manager at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. He is the author of Portrait of an Italian-American Neighborhood: The North End of Boston.

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Table of Contents

1 Life in Italy 1
2 The journey to America : life on the ships 10
3 A new life in New Haven 19
4 Becoming American citizens 35
5 Going to school 42
6 The Spanish flu epidemic in New Haven 52
7 Justice denied : the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti 61
8 Letters to loved ones 68
9 Fables and proverbs 81
10 Farming life in New Haven 89
11 Working life experiences 102
12 New Haven's garment workers : life in the sweatshops 125
13 Workers organize : the labor movement in New Haven 159
14 Northerners and southerners 183
15 Going back to Italy 196
16 The Depression in New Haven 202
17 Witches, healers and herbs 207
18 Italian feasts 218
19 Italian societies 226
20 Sports stories 237
21 Artists and singers 246
22 Meat markets, pastry shops, bakeries and pizzerias 258
23 Holiday celebrations 266
24 Vanishing dialects 279
25 Life by the sea 288
26 New Haven's Italian Americans in World War II 303
27 The Franklin Street fire 320
28 Life in the Annex 335
29 Life in the Wooster Square neighborhood 349
30 Life in the Hill 368
31 Life in the Forbes Avenue neighborhood 377
32 Life in Fair Haven 383
33 Life in the Legion Avenue neighborhood 392
34 Highways and urban renewal : New Haven forever changed 404
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2008

    A Slice of Italian Culture in New Haven

    An very interesting 'slice' of the Italian American Community in New Haven, from some individuals & families' points of view. Many families were not included that were influential, but it was written by people who discussed some of their memories. It might have been nice if some of the names were proofed. 'ie' Mayor Celentano, the name was not spelled correctly in some areas of the book. As someone who lived there as a young child, I have some additional recollections, clarifications & observations that were not found in the book, but I understand that it could not be written from all points of view. It was none the less enjoyable & informative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    Brilliantly written

    The Italian American Experience In New Haven: Images And Oral Histories by Anthony Riccio (Stacks Manager at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University) draws upon personal interviews as well as family and archival photographs to present a richly complex and fully realized history of the life and experiences of Italian immigrants who settled in New Haven, Connecticut in the 19th and 20th centuries. Not only is the daily pulse of life in the Italian-American community revealed in the life stories of ordinary men and women, the reader will discover how this immigrant community was affected by such landmark events as the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Great Depression, and World War II. Also revealed are the hardships of Italian immigrant women who labored under terrible (and often hazardous) conditions in New Haven's shirt factories. The integrations of historic photographs with the reported interviews transform The Italian American Experience In New Haven from just another ethnic American history into a compelling social history showcasing a vibrant, vigorous, colorful community. The result is a brilliantly written and highly recommended work that is as entertaining as it is informative.

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