As eighteen-year-old Lorenzo Adamani works his way down the Aspromonte mountainside toward the coastal town of Gioia Taura, he is carrying a small hemp sack over his shoulder – a sack containing everything he owns. He is on his way to America, escaping the extreme hardship and poverty of the oppressed Italian South. Responding to American corporate labor recruiters, he does not know what to expect, but is hopeful of a better life -- a life that will enable him to support his mother and siblings left behind in Calabria.
With hopes unfulfilled, Lorenzo is left to make his own way while navigating rough terrain and perilous life circumstances. He eventually finds Mariella, and the two of them create a life together -- struggling, desperately at times, to support a large family in a hostile anti-immigrant environment. Their ultimate success is a testament to their unshakable character and the strength and durability of their Calabrian roots.
With Tears and Laughter is an historical fiction novel telling the story of millions of Southern Italians forced to leave Italy during the late nineteenth century and first part of the twentieth century. This mass immigration is seen in the lives of protagonists whose circumstances and identities shift from peasant subsistence roots in Calabria, Italy to hardship and confusion in America. Lost dreams and financial struggles gradually turn into a life beyond mere survival – a life of contrasting values, cultural integration, and triumphs across generations. Moving back and forth between Southern Italy and the United States, arranged marriages are intertwined with love, Italian wedding feasts, and sometimes humorous intergenerational and cultural differences.
As the book moves back and forth in time and between locations, stories are generated from the standpoint of historical events and actual, as well as fictionalized, recollections. The chapters containing these integrated stories sometimes tell us about the direct experiences and hardships associated with a de facto forced immigration. "New York, New York" stands out in this regard. Here we see how arrival and adaptation to urban tenement life, difficult and stressful in its own right, transitions into the recruited laborers' realization of their indentured servitude.
Other chapters tell stories indirectly related to the protagonists' immigration – stories depicting what it is like to be reduced in status as a result of being displaced and unwanted. For example, "Confessions" speaks to how Lorenzo, as a result of a life constantly challenged by hardships and accusations, uses the confessional as an opportunity to proclaim his innocence rather than confess his sins.
"Sickle-Bar Farm" demonstrates how the quest to reproduce the familiar terrace farm lifestyle of Southern Italy becomes distorted and confused in the United States. With a humorous touch, we experience the contrast between a subsistence farm-life of the Calabrian mountainsides and a failed small business farm in Western Pennsylvania.
When finished with this book the reader will have journeyed through the lives of two diaspora Italian immigrants – two courageous and strong people who suffered greatly to make a better life for their children, and others as well.
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|Publisher:||Barnes & Noble Press|
|Edition description:||Historical Fiction ed.|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.06(d)|