Great Art, Dismal Politics: A Tale of Two Italies

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joseph Luzzi’s family in Calabria, Italy. Joseph Luzzi’s father, Pasquale, and his children in Calabria, shortly before their passage to the United States. (Joseph Luzzi/Joseph Luzzi)

The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature Joseph Luzzi tells his family’s story and links it to Italy’s north-south divide and the country's passion for art, food, and family. His book My Two Italies gives an account of his Calabrian father’s time as a military internee in Nazi Germany—where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman. Luzzi also looks at Italy’s contradictions—it has produced some of the world’s greatest art but it also suffers from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society.


Joseph Luzzi

Comments [5]

Raffaele Gerace from Bayonne, nj

A wonderful and honest interview. Prof. Luzzi sheds articulate light on questions of identity that seemingly cut across ethnic lines when it comes to the experiences of the children of immigrants. As the son of a Calabrian father and Pugliese mother, I know something about the reality of regional Italian cultures. At the same time, and after 150 plus years of Italian political unification, several factors have arguably contributed to an increasing sense of pan Italianism that stretches beyond regional identification . Those factors, in no particular order, are the supplanting of the dialects by "standard" Italian ( thanks to the advent of television) and nationalist based sporting events, especially the FIFA World Cup. (Even the World Cup, however, manages to cultivate opportunities for regional debate and resentment over the selection of players for the national team.) in any event, I can't wait to read Prof. Luzzi's book.

Jul. 24 2014 10:51 PM
Eric from Albany CA

I suspect that the views of many Americans about the North/South divide in Italy were shaped by the vivid images of early and mid-20th century Sicily that were depicted in the first two "Godfather" movies. If the stereotypes about the region's corruption, etc. have persisted, blame it on Frances Ford Coppola [!]

Jul. 24 2014 05:31 PM
Charles Imbimbo from Teaneck, NJ

Excellent guest! His nuanced approach to Italian American identity gets into the complications of dual and multiple identities. I'm certainly going to order his book!

Jul. 24 2014 01:01 PM
stefano from East Williamsburg

I moved to NYC from Milan in March 2000.

As a freelance phtographer / photojournalist I ended up photographing Italian - American block parties in places like Bay Ridge / Bensonhurst. I always felt a wall there. My name is obviously Italian, but those sons immigrants never asked me where I was from and so on.

I never understood why these Italian Americans seemed so little interested in meeting a new immigrant. Probably my accent is very different than theirs.

I never had such issues with other immigrant communities I had to photograph. from Jamaicans, Haitians, Puertoricans. But Italian Americans somehow still puzzle me.

But I found Calabria born immigrants (mostly in their 70s) from Carroll Gardens to be friendly and welcoming.

Jul. 24 2014 12:56 PM
Angela Starita from Brooklyn, NY

I'm looking forward to reading Prof. Luzzi's book. Although my father was largely assimilated to American culture and my mother was Italian American, we were very connected to my father's town in southern Italy, Sorrento. Luzzi's description of his relationship to Calabria is strikingly familiar--especially how he is viewed by his family in Italy. I wonder if the book will also discuss his sense of how Italian culture is seen in the US.

Jul. 24 2014 12:55 PM

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