Old World Daughter, New World Mother: An Education in Love and Freedom

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A warm, smart, and witty personal investigation of ethnicity and womanhood.
In the second-generation immigrant home where Maria Laurino grew up, “independent” was a dirty word and “sacrifice” was the ideal and reality of motherhood. But out in the world, Mary Tyler Moore was throwing her hat in the air, personifying the excitement and opportunities of the freedom loving American career woman. How, then, to reconcile one’s inner Livia Soprano—the archetypal ethnic mother—with a ...
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Old World Daughter, New World Mother: An Education in Love and Freedom

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Overview

A warm, smart, and witty personal investigation of ethnicity and womanhood.
In the second-generation immigrant home where Maria Laurino grew up, “independent” was a dirty word and “sacrifice” was the ideal and reality of motherhood. But out in the world, Mary Tyler Moore was throwing her hat in the air, personifying the excitement and opportunities of the freedom loving American career woman. How, then, to reconcile one’s inner Livia Soprano—the archetypal ethnic mother—with a feminist icon?Combining lived experience with research and reporting on our contemporary work-family dilemmas, Laurino brews an unusual and affirming blend of contemporary and traditional values. No other book has attempted to discuss feminism through the prism of ethnic identity, or to merge the personal and the analytical with such a passionate and intelligent literary voice. Prizing both individual freedom and an Old World in which the dependent young and old are cherished, Laurino makes clear how much the New World offers and how much it has yet to learn.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In a memoir that combines the personal and the political, Laurino (Were You Always an Italian?) documents her journey from a childhood spent in the company of a traditional Italian family to becoming a mother herself and the many differences between her mother's life and her own. Laurino's mother, a stay-at-home mom, claimed that she was not like the "other mothers"-she didn't drive or participate in the school's PTA; she was superstitious and read omens from dreams into daily life, while keeping an overprotective eye on Laurino and her mentally disabled brother. Laurino's father believed in the power of education and supported Laurino through college, where she pursued her burgeoning interest in the feminist movement. She began her career in the early 1980s at the Village Voice and later became New York City Mayor David Dinkins's chief speechwriter. As she married and had a child, her worldview expanded to include that of a working mother, and she struggled "to find a comfortable place for myself amid the hum of two dominant, divergent traditions." Laurino deftly tells her story, while succinctly expressing a feminist's perspective on motherhood and explaining how much further we have to go as a country in order to honor every woman's work. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Laurino (Were You Always an Italian?, 2000) examines the internal struggle between her immigrant roots and her yearning for the freedoms of contemporary feminist goals. The author uses the cultural imprint of her second-generation immigrant family-focusing on the traditional obligations of wife and mother-to set up the personal conflicts she has encountered and continues to process. Envisioning a broader role for herself than that of her mother-the personification of Southern Italian familial devotion, sacrifice and subordination-Laurino spends most of her memoir attempting to define what that role should be. The impetus toward feminist thinking came at Georgetown University, where a distinctly liberal-minded professor introduced her to the nonfiction works of Virginia Woolf. But when professor Jean Kirkpatrick later became the first female ambassador to the United Nations under the highly conservative Reagan administration, Laurino felt a tinge of betrayal. In a man's world, she wondered, must women surrender their true beliefs to realize their ambitions? A career in journalism followed, in which she encountered internecine gender conflicts and outright sexist discrimination at the supposedly progressive Village Voice. The author married and became pregnant, which she had initially delayed because of career priorities. Opposed to hospital delivery, Laurino chose the fashionable Manhattan feminist option, the midwife. But hers failed to diagnose a complication that nearly killed the author. Her hereditary nurturing instincts then surfaced to the point where the pressure to make the "right" choices-where to work, how much, where to live, etc.-became even more daunting. However, ifcontemporary feminism, in search of economic equality, has "devalu[ed] the act of care [by] asking women to perform in the workplace just like men," she writes, "it will be feminism that lifts us out of these muddy waters."Scattershot but heartfelt. Agent: Susan Ramer/Don Congdon Associates
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393057287
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/13/2009
  • Pages: 223
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Maria Laurino
Maria Laurino is the author of Were You Always an Italian?, a national bestseller, and Old World Daughter, New World Mother. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Feminism, independence and identity

    Maria Laurino's book is part memoirs and part analysis of feminism in practice.

    The book begins with stories of her Italian American grandparents and the lives that they built for themselves in New Jersey. Sharing anecdotes from her mother's childhood of how her maternal grandfather who came to the US at the turn of the century and created his own construction company. Growing their own vegetables and flowers, making their own wine in the basement of their home, maintaining many of their traditions and habits of the lives that they'd had in Italy. In the stories of her family, Maria Laurino shares the roles that women have held and how each generation of women would balance the expectations and needs of their families with their own needs.

    She writes about feminism in the context of her own life and her identity as Italian American. "I explained how my father wanted me to attend any college that I chose and always supported my living away from home to pursue a career...[the journalist] had no idea how radical the concept of establishing an independent life was for a daughter in a traditional Italian-American family."

    Laurino discusses how motherhood affected her understanding of everyday feminism. She also analyzes how feminism is regarded by college women and recent college graduates insofar as anecdotal research shows that less women seem to describe themselves as feminists while they have a deep commitment to gender equality in practice.

    Overall, I found Old World Daughter, New World Mother: An Education in Love and Freedom to be an interesting read.

    Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co. (April 13, 2009), 224 pages.
    Courtesy of Bostick Communications and the author.

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  • Posted June 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting

    "Old World Daughter, New World Mother" focuses on Maria Laurino's experiences as a both a mother and daughter and the roles in today's society. She chronicles her life and compares what it was life for her mother and the role she played in their Italian family and herself; a working woman. Her amusing writing style and the questions she brings up makes this an interesting book for all those mothers and daughter facing the same dilemmas.

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