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Spring 2008


- A. Bodhràn
For Valentino Lo Bianco “In Memoriam” July 2007
- L. Calio
Elbow Grease
- M. Carroll
Sacred Sod
- G. Fagiani
The Name He Did Not Want
- V. Fazio
La Visita (The Visit)
- M. Frasca
Finn McCool Crosses the Line
- J. Hart
After the Glanconer
- J. Knight
- M. Lisella
Dun Arann
- J. Machan
Karaoke Swan Song
- P. Many
Sestina Terrona
- N. Matros
The Roofs of Siena
- J. McCann
- S. Moorhead
- P. Nichloas
Marriage Ellis Island Style
- F. Polizzi
The Years of Our Lord
- K. Scambray
The Girl with Botticelli Hair
- G. Tabasso
On a Dismal Night, in Dim Light Pondering a Tattered Map of Ireland
- H. Youtt

Tony Zeppetella

Review of B. Amore’s AN ITALIAN AMERICAN ODYSSEY: Life line – Filo della vita:Through Ellis Island and Beyond (Center for Migration Studies,
distributed by Fordham University Press)

B. Amore’s An Italian American Odyssey is a written and photographic record of her mixed-media exhibit Life line, staged in the original dormitory rooms of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. It is a family history in the context of the Italian migration to the Americas. But more than that, as attested to by visitors to the exhibit, it is a story of the Great Migration from all of Europe, and even more, of all people who left a land that their families had lived in for maybe a thousand years and had to adapt to a new language and culture, sometimes with little or no family contact.

The exhibit was dedicated to her maternal grandmother, Concettina De Iorio, a strong-willed woman remarkable in many ways. Somewhat atypically, she came from a landed family in the province of Avellino. She married Ernesto Piscopo despite her family’s objections , but this turned out to be a mistake. She petitioned a court to grant her support from him, which enabled her to enroll in college, one of only a handful of Italian American women to do so in the early twentieth century. It is interesting that Ernesto’s character faults are presented so honestly. This realism counteracts the tendency in literature to over-romanticize these early immigrants. Women’s historians might look to people like Concettina and the many Italian village women who functioned as the head of their families when the men went to the Americas, as pioneers of the Feminist movement.

B. Amore has artifacts that any family historian would envy. Concettina saved and labeled everything in her East Boston home, and her father’s large D’Amore family accumulated much as well. These artifacts, records, photos and letters make up the bulk of the exhibit, presenting her family’s story from the nineteenth century to the current time. She has a truly rare treasure − a Libro di Memorie − diary started by her great grandfather relating family events beginning in the early 1800s. Imagine being able to go back in time 200 years and hear the thoughts of your ancestors! Some of the pages were presented in the exhibit, but I would have liked to have seen more of it in the book.

The display panels contained a red thread which was symbolic in many ways. It recalls a gesture in which some emigrants on the departing ships and their relatives remaining on the docks held opposite ends of a ball of yarn. As the ships sailed away, the unwinding yarn symbolized both the connections between the Old World and the New and the break from the family and the Old World. In the exhibit, this red thread both unified the exhibit within the space of its several rooms and connected the family history through time.

B. Amore’s artistic talents are apparent in the organization and juxtaposition of the various artifacts and documents. The family memorabilia are placed in the context of social and historical records of the time, such as songs, newspaper articles, photographs, poems, etc. These are supplemented by transcriptions of immigrant interviews from Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum in New York, and others. These all help elevate the work from a family to a social history. In one part that she labeled Odyssey, she placed human-like figures she created by carving black Trentino marble, with bundles of her historical artifacts on top and draped them with fabric.

These were supposed to be reminiscent of the Italian village women carrying loads on their heads but evoked for me several other thoughts. For one thing, the materials combined the fabric crafts of her maternal ancestors with the skills of her paternal grandfather, a stonemason. These are clearly influences on her work. In addition, the black marble figures were placed upon black wooden platforms with wheels. The wheels connote movement and when I saw the bare white room filled with these human-like figures in alignment, it seemed to represent the Great Migration across the Atlantic.

This is a sourcebook for the history of immigration. It records and immortalizes the Life line exhibit encompassing the photos, letters, objects (both mundane and sacred), interviews, fabrics, designs, artwork, books and newspapers telling the story of the people of the Great Migration and their descendents. As such, it will be of interest to those wishing to pursue a deeper understanding of the history of immigration. The book includes an Italian translation by Franco Bagnolini.

An Italian American Odyssey shows that the ball of yarn connecting the emigrant with the dockside relatives may unwind fully, but in many cases the thread is never fully broken. In this family we see a daughter taking up a mother’s fashion arts, a granddaughter learning her grandfather’s stoneworking arts, and even a great-grandson writing a book of family recipes, while working on the other side of the world in Tokyo. The thread is never ending.