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Our New Book: Reconstructing Italians in Chicago--Thirty Authors in Search of Roots and Branches

Our New Book: Reconstructing Italians in Chicago--Thirty Authors in Search of Roots and Branches

Dominic Candeloro (October 13, 2011)
Cover of the new book edited by Gardaphe' & Candeloro

New book that originated as the proceedings of a 2008 conference has expanded into an Anthology/Sampler of the best writing about Chicago Italians. The book is dedicated to the memory of Rudolph Vecoli and contains Vecoli's description of his decision to pursue Italian American studies. Is this eclectic approach a good model for other cities? The editors will be presenting this book at the NIAF Expo in Washington, DC at 4 pm on Oct. 28. Stop by and join the discussion


 October 8 was a glorious day in Chicago!  We presented the new book  Reconstructing Italians in Chicago: Thirty Authors in Search of Roots and Branches to an enthusiastic audience at the Italian Cultural Center of Casa Italia!  A 50 minute video of the event is available on You Tube

Originally conceived as the “Proceedings” for the May 8-11, 2008

conference “Reconstructing Italians in Chicago: Twenty Authors in
Search of Roots and Branches,” this volume has evolved into something
much more ambitious.  The event was planned to feature Professor
Rudolph Vecoli, Director of the University of Minnesota’s Immigration
History Research  Center as a central figure.  

Early in 2008, we 
learned that Vecoli was terminally ill and could not serve as our keynoter or attend the conference.  We dedicated the conference to him
and he was gratified to hear of the progress at the event and of the digital scanning of his dissertation on Italians in Chicago prior to World War I that we distributed on CD to many participants in the conference.  He passed away in June 2008 and this volume is dedicated to his memory.

Clearly, our book had to include previous writings that Vecoli had 
done.  Then, when several of the invited could not actually travel to the conference, out editors (Candeloro and Gardaphe) determined to include some additional non-attending writers.  This led Candeloro to envision the book as a “sampler” of the best writing on the subject of Italians in Chicago.  It would be an introduction to a wide range of contemporary and past studies on the subject.  

Moreover, the book 
would be multi-disciplined, as was the conference and it would include many first person narratives by the lay public.  To describe this as an eclectic project is an understatement.  And though there are  inconsistencies in reference formats, genre, and in tone, the pieces in this puzzle, we believe, offer a rich portrait of Italianit· in the Chicago setting.

In addition to variety, we have substance.  From Fred Gardaphe’s 
opening analytical essay to the highly documented scholarship of (the late) Peter D’Agostino, Thomas Guglielmo, Robert Lombardo, and Peter Venturelli, we have solid modern academic research on our topic. Creative writers Tony Ardizzone, Adria Bernardi, (the late) Tina DeRosa, Chickie Farella, Billy Lombardo, Calogero Lombardo, and Tony Romano bring us the personal and emotional truth about Chicago Italians through their fiction.

Perhaps the most accessible section of our book are the first person, autobiographical accounts related by Leonard Amari, Paul Ciminello, Jerry Colangelo, Anthony Fornelli, Rose Ann Rabiola Miele, and Tony Sorrentino.

Their testimony frames a dozen memorable portraits of 
people growing up Italian in Chicago in different decades of the 20th Century.  Rudolph Vecoli’s explanation of how he helped establish Italian American Studies as a respected academic discipline is fascinating narrative and a fitting contribution for a book dedicated to his memory.

Throughout this anthology—whether woven into the narrative, formally formatted in the endnotes of the academic papers, or listed in the final bibliography—are suggestions for further research.  A thorough 
reading of the book can lead to almost every existant source that we have on Italians in Chicago.

There is something for everybody in this volume.  Every reader will find a topic or a writer that s/he wants to know more about.  Our ultimate goal is to lead scholars and the community in making Chicago’s Italians the best documented (and best understood) in the nation.   The talent and genius of the writers represented in Reconstructing Italians in Chicago along with the resources at the Casa Italia Library and elsewhere can make it happen.

The full May 8-10, 2008 conference program is available at and info on the event was posted on this blog and can still be found on I-Italy.   All presentations at the conference were video recorded and are available at the Casa Italia Library.  
Though this book includes some photos, images of Italians in Chicago abound online at
This collection is based on the Italians in Chicago Exhibit at Casa Italia. Complete captioning for the photos appears in Candeloro’s Images of America: Italians in Chicago, his first Arcadia book on this topic.

Our sincere thanks go out to our generous sponsors—Casa Italia, the National Italian American Foundation, the Illinois Humanities Council, the Sicilian American Cultural Association, the Romano/Morgan Group, Freddy’s Pizzeria, the Sons of Italy Illinois Wisconsin Grand Lodge, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, Queens College of CUNY, Loyola University Chicago, and Amaseno Lodge #3, OSIA.

Lastly, this volume represents the first publishing venture by the 
Italian Cultural Center since the 1970s when Father Feccia himself ran the off-set press to produce Joseph Tusiani’s book of poetry entitled Gente Mia.  If our Reconstructing Italians in Chicago is half as good as Gente Mia, we will consider it a wild success.

$29.99 + $2 s/h    Order from Books, Casa Italia, 3800 Division Street, Stone Park, IL 60165 [email protected]  708 345-5933

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