Dances With Luigi Reviews, Cont.
From Booklist
Paolicelli, a television journalist who grew up in Pittsburgh and lives in Houston, reached midlife divorced and childless. He took the money he had saved for a child's education to support himself while he lived in Italy. And what he did there proved, indeed, that the past is not only never gone, it isn't even past. He wanted to find, specifically, an official record of a grandfather's birth, but that seemingly simple search turned into a journey to the villages where his grandparents' live and where he hoped to find whatever time, fire, and war might have spared.
His companion was a man of his own age named Luigi, who became for him the embodiment of contemporary Italy and its ties to the past. Paolicelli learns why some of his ancestors never learned to read, what World War II meant and still means, and why some will not speak of it. He finds the ways to make his relatives--so many now gone--dance in these pages. The writing has a headlong, heartfelt quality, the energy of someone who has searched to find words for what he feels so deeply. His narrative is made more compelling by his skillful interpolation of local history and folklore into his family storia--that lovely Italian word that means both history and story.
The coda, where he finds the words--in Italian--to share his feelings with his father and where he names his new daughter Cara, is almost unbearably moving.
--GraceAnne A. DeCandido
From Library Journal 
Award-winning television journalist Paolicelli has written a beautiful story that traces the history of his grandfather's life in Italy in an attempt to learn more about his own roots. A natural-born storyteller, Paolicelli immediately grabs the reader's attention in his prolog, describing his Italian family members and the passing of the older generation. His search begins in Rome, where Paolicelli gets help from his Italian neighbor Luigi, who takes him under his wing and acts as his translator, his chauffeur, and his contact throughout the entire journey. Vivid descriptions of the Italian countryside and its people carry the reader along on this three-year journey of self-discovery. The search ends in Matera, where Paolicelli finally learns the answers to his questions and comes, finally, to know the man his grandfather was. A compelling and moving memoir, this tale is remembered long after it has been read. Recommended for public libraries.--Stephanie Papa, Baltimore City. Circuit Court Law Lib. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From the Houston Chronicle
Ann Hodges, TV Critic
June 23, 2000
The Author at Work
Paul Paolicelli, news director of Channel 2 from 1985 to 1991, is back in town, and pushing a new book. It's a good one.
Dances with Luigi (St. Martin's Press, $24.95) is a voyage of self-discovery.
Paolicelli went searching for his family's Italian roots, but what he found goes far beyond his personal quest. His book is an insightful and delightful look at Italy and its people today,  "people who for too long have been stamped by stereotypes that don't begin to tell their story."
In Dances with Luigi, Paolicelli tells the story with warmth, affection and well-written information about Italy and the Italians.
Paolicelli left Channel 2 to do this book, after a meeting with the Italian delegation to the Economic Summit in Houston in 1990 spurred a desire to connect with the country his grandfather left to come to America.  Paolicelli didn't even speak Italian then, so he began by studying the language.
He credits a former Houston news director colleague, Mike Crew (then at Channel 51) with heading him in the right direction. When Crew saw the outline of his first six chapters, a third-person report on modern Italy, Crew said, "II don't want to read that. I want to read the story of you and your family."
Paolicelli had never written in the first person before, so for the first six months he practiced by writing a first-person novel, a parody of TV talk shows that's now making publishers' rounds in New York.
The title, Dances with Luigi, is a tribute to Italians who volunteered to take Paolicelli all over Italy in search of his roots. The ongoing interaction between Paolicelli, as a third-generation American, and the modern Italians he met in his search is the "dance."
On this book-signing tour, the reaction from other Italian-Americans has been the biggest surprise. "In this story, there are no negative stereotypes and no Mafia connections, and that has pleased them," Paolicelli said. "The book is tapping into that in a way I never expected."
From the Associated Press
By Aimee Logue for AP Special Features
Paul Paolicelli was born into a "dark-eyed, laughing, robust" Italian family in a Pittsburgh suburb. And even though he grew up hearing plenty of tales about his Italian ancestors and the family back in the Old World, his curiosity was never satisfied when it came to stories about his grandfathers.
In his touching memoir, Dances with Luigi, Paolicelli, a TV journalist, uses his inherent storytelling ability to chronicle his search throughout Italy for answers to the mysteries of his ancestry. The reader becomes a passenger on a sensual trip through the Italian countryside as Paolicelli vividly describes each person he meets and each food he tastes.
Paolicelli was inspired to make the trip when, at 40, he suddenly realized that he had forgotten about his Italian heritage and the unanswered questions about his family. He felt the need to do something "spiritual" to enlighten himself. So, in 1991, he moved to Rome and embarked on a quest to dig up his Italian roots.
The story really begins when Paolicelli meets his neighbor Luigi, a charming, animated, contemporary Italian. They experience an immediate connection that stems from their love for good food, good conversation and family. While Luigi embodies the contemporary Italian worldview and all its contradictions, he continually reminds Paolicelli that he sees the world through the eyes of an optimistic American.
The "circular" conversations they share throughout the book revolve around Italian history, politics and philosophy, their most articulate discussions involving the rift between northern and southern Italians and the impact World War II had on the Italian psyche.
Their colorful conversations are like a dance; the pull and tug of opposing viewpoints, the friendly banter, the mesmerizing motion that draws the reader in through the lines. Although Luigi doesn't understand Paolicelli's obsession about his quest, he agrees to be his interpreter and guide.
Paolicelli's first mission was to find out about Pietro DePasquale, his maternal grandfather. He had always wondered why DePasquale never spoke of his life in Italy or his connection to Mussolini before World War II.  Relatives in Gamberale, a village in the Apennines, provided the answers. He knew that his grandfather, at 14, had immigrated to the United States in 1898. What he didn't know was that news of his grandfather's success in America made him a "man of respect" in Gamberale. At Mussolini's request, DePasquale returned there three times between 1920 and 1940 to rally support for fascist policies he thought would bring prosperity to his people. But after World War II began, stories about Mussolini's brutality made him withdraw his support. Paolicelli realized that his grandfather never spoke about his life in Italy because he was ashamed of his role as Mussolini's pawn.
That mystery solved, Paolicelli focused on his paternal grandfather's past. Francesco Paolo Paolicelli had died before his grandson was born and left no record of his birth or his life in Italy. Toward the end of his three-year stay in Italy, Paolicelli found his grandfather's baptismal records in a church in a town that was different from the town his father had thought the family had originated from.
In the end, Paolicelli realized "it was the sacrifice, after all, that made all of our American lives so much the better. It was Francesco's sacrifice and ambition, Pietro DePasquale's self-assuredness and determination, it was all of them having the desire, the youth, the sheer guts to get up and go; to find America and to define it for us."
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