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Being Italian America

Being Italian America


June 1, 2008

Becoming Italian American: POWs and National Identity

Laura E. Ruberto
Benicia Historical Society
Italian Service Unit, Benicia, California (circa 1944)

Two national holidays, la Festa della Repubblica and Memorial Day, bring up the question of what it means to belong.

June 17, 2008

Forgetting the Past: Ethnic Identity and How Italian and English Fail Us

Laura E. Ruberto
Wanto Market (Japanese American Market), Oakland, California, 1942

The role of popular memory has a lot to do with how ethnic identities get formed; what would happen if there were words in English or Italian that clarified the history of Italian migration?

May 19, 2008

Holiday in Italy! (without Leaving the U.S.)

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Gondola Servizio, Lake Merritt, Oakland, California

The cult of Italy repackaged for US consumer culture.

August 18, 2008

Breastfeeding Breasts!

Laura E. Ruberto
Tina Modotti
"Baby Nursing" (1926)

In honor of my two young children and World Breastfeeding Month, a few thoughts on the work of women’s breasts.

May 3, 2008

Gepetto (sic), Fairyland, and Oakland’s Lost Italian Americans

Laura E. Ruberto
City of Oakland
Entrance to Children's Fairyland, Oakland, California

Geppetto's been building Pinocchio for over 40 years in Oakland's Fairyland.

April 21, 2008

Italian Farming in the Central Valley

Laura E. Ruberto
photo by Al and Deanna DeNurra
Baresi Brand (packing label)

Weaving together oral stories from California's Italian American farmers in the Central Valley.

April 10, 2008

Italian Americana, California Style

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Litto's Hubcap Ranch, Pope Valley (2007)

Driving for hours takes us to three California Italian American vernacular sites -- from urban LA to rural NorCal with a stop along the freeway in the Central Valley.

April 28, 2008

A Californian Goes East

Laura E. Ruberto
Geroge Bates/NY Times

A look at Oakland's Italian American neighborhood and what it might tell us about Nutley, New Jersey.

October 26, 2008

Radical Espresso: Mario Savio and Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement

Laura E. Ruberto
Mario Savio's "operation of the machine" speech, Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley, December 2, 1964

What happens when a Berkeley café lays claim to an Italian American free thinker?

December 29, 2008

The Rocks of San Francisco: Authenticity, Ethnic Neighborhoods, and Going Blog Crazy

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Nuova Porziuncola, North Beach neighborhood, San Francisco

Ethnic construction and sacred place, the replica of the Porziuncola Chapel in San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood.

January 15, 2009

The Eternal City of Champions

Laura E. Ruberto
Fabio Ruberto
Constructing a Steelers Logo Sign (2006)

A few comments on the connections between Pittsburgh, Italians, and American Football.

February 22, 2009


Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Berkeley Iceland today (closed since 2003)

A little diddy about California’s role in the Italian American invention of an ice-resurfacing machine.

October 4, 2008

Garment Workers and Union Activists in Tinsel Town

Laura E. Ruberto
"The Garment Jungle"
Original Movie Poster for "The Garment Jungle" (1957)

My random encounter with a Hollywood Italian American labor activist.

January 6, 2009

I’ll Have Some Pancetta with My Mob Reference, Please

Laura E. Ruberto
Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Leon Panetta

With Leon Panetta’s potential return to Washington, comes a new focus on his Italian connections.

March 8, 2010

Re-reading Diane Di Prima, in Honor of International Women's Day

Laura E. Ruberto
Cover of Diane Di Prima's "Memoirs of a Beatnik" (first published in 1969)

San Francisco’s Current Poet Laureate, Diane Di Prima, moves Italian American Identity Above, Below, and Beyond.

February 3, 2010

Frank Capra Films Italian-San Francisco

Laura E. Ruberto
(agenzia bozzo)
The Italian Cruiser, Libia, at its baptism, November, 11, 1912

Capturing Italy’s encounter with California in Frank Capra’s documentary "La visita dell’ Incrociatore Italiano Libia a San Francisco, Calif., 6-29 Novembre 1921"

January 14, 2010

On Guidos, Gramsci, and Irony Deficiency

Laura E. Ruberto
"Pasquino," by Nicolas Beatrizet (engraving,1550)

Why Italian Americans need to take action, a Pasquinian response to some recent debates.

December 24, 2009

Radical Italian American Christmas Cards

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Mock-up for a Radical Italian American Christmas Card Set, the "Holiday Modotti"

Thinking about next year’s holiday cards, I turn to the leftist artists, Tina Modotti and Pietro di Donato.

August 19, 2009

Searching for the Ethnic Angle in John Baldessari’s Art

Laura E. Ruberto
"Lover's Embrace" (John Baldessari)

On a visit to a retrospective of this California artist, I consider traces of the Italian immigrant background in his work.

August 8, 2009

Uncredited Extras: Cinecittà’s Refugees and the Italian American Who Filmed Them

Laura E. Ruberto
Refugees at Cinecitta', Rome, 1944

Jack Salvatori, an almost-forgotten Italian American director, made a film about Cinecittà’s role as a camp for WWII refugees.

April 11, 2009

The Invisible Victims of the Abruzzo Earthquake

Laura E. Ruberto
Samuele Pellecchia/Prospekt, for The New York Times
L'Aquila, The Dome of Santa Maria del Suffragio, destroyed by the April 6 earthquake

An unknown number of documented and undocumented immigrants in Abruzzo have died or lost their homes because of the recent earthquake.

July 4, 2009

Excavating New Futures: The Cairano 7x Experience

Laura E. Ruberto
Cairano 7x Poster
Cairano 7x

An ambitious week-long event in a small village in the province of Avellino crossed many boundaries and suggested many new possibilities.

June 1, 2010

The Über-Country: Italy at 150 Years

Laura E. Ruberto
"The Contribution of a Great Race" 1924
cover of the THE CONTRIBUTION OF A GREAT RACE, published in San Francisco, 1924, by “The Italians of California to their American Brothers"

Some thoughts on Italy’s mythical status, migrating identities, and the creation of an online salon to talk about it all.

October 8, 2010

Italian America’s Eureka Moment

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Romano Gabriel's Wooden Sculpture Garden, Eureka, CA

Finding Romano Gabriel’s Wooden Sculpture Garden along the Italy-California border.

December 24, 2010

Vince Guaraldi--“the sound of Yuletide on these shores”

Laura E. Ruberto
Charles M. Schulz/Vince Guaraldi
Italian version of Charlie Brown's Christmas Album, 1979

Some Italian-American notes about the man behind the music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas.

December 2, 2009

Californians Sell Little Italy, One Crate at a Time

Laura E. Ruberto
(Label image, P.V.)
Angelina Tokay varietal grape label

Fruit and Vegetable Crate Labels in California and the Italian Americans They Created

March 2, 2011

The Case of the Missing Fasanella Painting

Laura E. Ruberto
Ralph Fasanella
"Welcome Home Boys" (1953)

How I uncovered that the City of Oakland, the Oakland Public Library, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Oakland International Airport have misplaced Ralph Fasanella’s painting, "Welcome Home Boys".

October 12, 2011

Il Fanciullo del West: Shorty Joe Quartuccio’s Country Western Sound

Laura E. Ruberto
Shorty Joe and his Red Rock Canyon Cowboys - 1947 (Shorty Joe Quartuccio, Bob Simas, & Jim Franchina)

A Few Notes on California’s Sicilian American country music history.

October 12, 2011

Il Fanciullo del West: Shorty Joe Quartuccio’s Country Western Sound

Laura E. Ruberto
Shorty Joe and his Red Rock Canyon Cowboys - 1947 (Shorty Joe Quartuccio, Bob Simas, & Jim Franchina)

A Few Notes on California’s Sicilian American country music history.

July 8, 2012

The “Naive Wooden Sculptures” of Theodore Santoro

Laura E. Ruberto
Theodore Santoro's "naive wooden sculptures"

An Italian American self-taught artist from Oakland, California, adds yet another chapter in the story of Italian Americans and material culture.

October 22, 2013

“The Mediterranean Came to Flavor My Existence”: Harry Bertoia’s Midcentury Italian American Aesthetic

Laura E. Ruberto
Cornell University Museum
Harry Bertoia, “Diamond” chair for Knoll Associates, originally produced in 1952 (this example manufactured in the 1970s).

Reflections on how Italy shaped (or didn’t) the midcentury modern design of artist Harry Bertoia.

April 4, 2009

Italian American Romance in the Era Before Roe v. Wade

Laura E. Ruberto
"Love with the Proper Stranger" 1963

The 1963 film Love with the Proper Stranger dealt with the limited choices faced by an Italian American woman a decade before abortion was legalized in the U.S.

March 13, 2014

Mobsters in Sin City

Laura E. Ruberto

The Las Vegas Mob Museum doesn’t know what to do with all those Italian American gangsters everyone loves to talk about so much.

March 20, 2013

Italian American Victrola-Spinning

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
Italian American Music Store Labels, Found on 78s and Their Sleeves

From a Massachusetts living room to a California garage—collecting and preserving Italian American soundscapes.

July 20, 2014

The Watts Towers in Southern Italy: Connecting California with Irpinia

Laura E. Ruberto
Laura E. Ruberto
hands of Angelo Filarmonio, holding a photo of himself, Amoroso Raimondo and Cirino Filippo at the Watts Towers, 1984

Looking for the future of Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers in the small town of Serino, in the province of Avellino.

November 22, 2008

The Other Rocky Movie

Laura E. Ruberto
Paul Newman in the Rocky Graziano story, "Somebody Up There Likes Me"

Paul Newman’s turn as an Italian American boxer leaves me wondering where all those gum machines went.