|From "Under the Southern Sun" Readers|
|Reviewer: Robert A. Cassella, Leavenworth, Kansas|
|Paul Paolicelli's reprise of Dances With Luigi is an eloquent and articulate series of vignettes that explain historically and culturally why 25% of Southern Italians immigrated to North and South America around the turn of the 20th century. He explains the origins of the values and attitudes that I saw in my Nonni, my parents and the people that lived around us. Thanks to Paul's research into the psyche of the Umbriana, the Abruzzese and Molisiana, Campanese, Apulese, Basilicatese, Calabrese and Siciliana I now understand and appreciate the essence of the stock from which I am bred. While I may have always appreciated my heritage, I have not understood it as I do now. This evocative book was written from the heart and will stir your memory and your senses.|
|A book with no antecedent...
Reviewer: Dr. James Mancuso, Albany, New York
|Paul Paolicelli, in his first book (DANCES WITH LUIGI) described his search, in Southern Italy, for evidence of the physical presence of his Italian-American forebears. After having succeeded in that search, he turned toward a more daunting task. He needed to return to Southern Italy to dig out the ideological roots of the personal attributes of his grandfather and of other Italian-Americans.|
|Paolicelli's quest began when he heard the story of his grandfather's death. His grandfather had died, on the spot, from the effects of a mutilating accident at the steel plant at which he had worked. His grandfather's last words were, "Povri figli mie" (My poor kids). "If an illiterate peasant can die with responsibility to his children as his last thought, he had far more character and depth than I'd ever thought about. I wanted to learn how much of that character was formed in [Southern Italy]."|
|Santa Maria Asunta, completed in 1232 by Frederick II, is the main square for Altamura, Puglia.|
|After another long stay in Southern Italy and extensive research, Paolicelli wrote a broadly appealing book that, so far as I know, has no antecedent.|
|Southern Italians, Paolicelli concluded, have been surrounded by a culture that prompts people to try to live out personal identities as industrious and humane persons who are intensely committed to families, He describes the origins of family solidity in the social conditions that prompted people to draw tight the circle of trusted friends and family members. He tells of how men like his grandfather were expected to show their respect for their fathers. For example, instead of saying something like "Hello," to his father, a young man would say "Mi benedetto," ("Bless me"). Professions of love were not expressed with words, but with deeds that showed that the children had accepted the responsibilities assigned to them by the surrounding community. A father, in turn, "provided, worked hard. That's how he showed his love."|
|Paolicelli's account of how the local people of Calabria treated the internees of fascist Italy's only concentration camp highlights the ways in which Southern Italians valued humane conduct. He tells that the goal of the director of the camp was to assure that the incarcerated "enemies of the state" would survive World War II. After the camp closed, until his death in 1987, the director regularly received letters, pictures of families, and presents from camp internees.|
|Paolicelli explores the ways in which Southern Italy suffered from the integration, in 1860, of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily into the new state of Italy. Paolicelli, through interviews and through relating the findings of his own research, supports the thesis that the new government found it convenient to characterize Southern Italians as ungovernable, over passionate, and lacking in initiative. To elaborate that thesis, Paolicelli reports on a lengthy interview with Professor Carmine Colacino. Colacino's commentary helps to clarify the ways in which the Southern Italians reacted, by rebellion and emigration, to the oppression of the new state's leaders.|
|In describing the post-immigration life of Rudolph Valentino (born Guglielmi, in the Apulia Region), Paolicelli illustrates the ways in which many immigrants and their offspring attempted to dissociate themselves from connections to South Italy and the stereotypical images of Southern Italians. Valentino capitalized on the stereotype by allowing himself to be portrayed as an exotic, swarthy, sensuous type. At the same time, he tried to pass himself off as a son of a well-connected family from Genoa.|
|Paolicelli writes about the work of Frank Capra as a contrast to the sorry tale of Valentino's troubles with the stereotype. He explores Fred Gadarphe's view that Capra's movie, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, expresses the values of Southern Italy by showing that "a community creates an identity. Without that community, and each individual's role in that community, there is no identity."|
|A built-in knowledge of the ways in which community functioned, claims another professor, allowed the Italian immigrants to fit into life in The USA with relative ease. "They went to America without formal education, without any wealth or influence, but they carried with them over two thousand years of knowledge of culture and of people. They thrived. They knew the stories of mankind." It was easy to deal with the Americans and with America " [Americans] offered honest pay for honest work."|
|Paolicelli could not avoid discussion of the ways in which many of the descendants of l'avventura have moved toward exploring their connections to the history of their families. He tells, for example of his interview with a large group of young people who were attending a program at the University of Potenza, who were reconnecting to the birthplace of their forebears. His observations about the extent of such reconnection had been spurred by the reception given to his first book -- a book that chronicled the ways in which he had become a "born again Italian."|
|This partially obscured sign is one of the few reminders of the only Fascist-run concentration camp during World War II. Hidden away in the hills above Cosenza, there is little left of the place and nothing to guide tourists to the decaying site.|
|And, of course, Paolicelli constantly adduces evidence of the ways in which Southern Italy has changed in the years between the great wave of emigration and the time in which he has been working through his reconnection. Most notably, he describes the ways in which the lives of the people of South Italy have changed as a result of the availability of opportunity. Young people are delaying marriage, adding to a decline in the birth rate. The educational policies, coupled with the conditions that induce young people to continue their education rather than try to seek employment, have made the South a major source of well educated professionals, many of whom must leave the region in order to find employment fitting to their educational level. At the same time, many of those well-educated young people are assuming positions of responsibility that once would have been occupied only by the offspring of well-connected families.|
|Anyone who seeks to develop a broader perspective on the results of the great Italy-to-The-USA immigration " l'avventura (the adventure), especially Italian-Americans, will find Paolicelli's book to be a source of stimulation and of one after another useful insight into the course of Italian-American adaptation to life in the USA.|
|Under the Southern Sun
A Reader from Louisville, KY, USA
|Having read Paul Paolicelli's very personal account of his search for family roots in Southern Italy in "Dances With Luigi," it was pleasantly surprising to find less of Paolicelli and more of the region in "Under the Southern Sun." A delightful, quick read, I was taken through the region and introduced to some amazing individuals coping in a less than hospitable place. The word pictures painted by Paolicelli of his surroundings, the meals he ate, and the people he met put me under that southern sun. His misadventures in getting lost trying to find a campus offered relief from the seriousness of the work. And, most of all, I learned of the deep-seated values inherent in the Italian upbringing in this forgotten portion of the "boot." The transition to deal with the Italian-American immigrants and the juxtaposition of Rudolph Valentino and Frank Capra as two of the more prominent immigrants of their time were entertaining and informative. And the description of Capra's films in the context of the importance of community to all Italians and, by transition, to all Americans was revealing. A thoroughly refreshing read and a permanent part of my library today.|
|A Journey Continues
Reviewer: sfata from Powell, OH USA
Paul's latest book continues his soulful journey that began with his book of discovery, "Dances With Luigi." As I read through this book, I felt as if I'd been lifted physically and transported to the scenes and times Paul writes about with such excitement. "Southern Sun" is a passionate retelling of the lifes of our ancestors. Stories that history books have missed or ignored but need telling none-the-less.
My grandparents and great grandparents came from villages near Cosenza, in Calabria,Italy. I'll never know all the reasons why they chose to leave, just a few bits and pieces. Through Paul's words I can now fill in some of the blanks and at least understand the economic challenges and attitudes that must have drove them to make such a courageous decision.
If you love the Italian culture and seek to understand and preserve it, this is a book to be read and shared with others.
Paul writes with a sense of wonder and zeal for every new bit of discovery he makes. He has created a road map for my own journey of discovery soon to be made when I follow his lead and retrace my family's roots. Roots that stretch back to Italy and were originally nourished under the southern sun. Bravo!
|Stereotypes Step Aside to Reveal Pure Italy
Beckyjean from Stratford, CT
This eminently readable book -- part Italian history, part personal journal -- dissects the economic and social constructs of the Southern part of Italy in an attempt to understand what it truly means to be Southern Italian and why Southern Italians have gotten such a bad rap in Italy and the U.S.
The author is proudly of Southern Italian descent, and it seems he has a bone to pick. I can certainly understand that -- I am of Southern Italian descent myself, and no stranger to the stereotypes that exist about "my people" -- the Mafioso, the ignorant peasant, the shiftless ne'er do well.
The colorful anecdotes in this book do a good job of shattering those stereotypes. Statistics about organized crime and the actual activities of the Mafia seem to show that Italians are not the leaders of the crime world. The apparent "laziness" is actually a social custom, akin to the Mexican siesta, that carried over to the United States, where nobody understood that it was actually a good idea to rest from one's labors during the hottest part of the day.
As for the ignorant peasant claim, yes, the people of the South are not as formally educated as those of the North. But what they lack in book-learning, they make up for in common sense, hard physical work, and heart. They are people of high ideals and close families, and it was ideals (a desire to better their families' lot in life) as well as an unsympathetic government that sparked the mass migration from Southern Italy to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
I have no reason to doubt this author's research; I certainly haven't done any of my own that disputes it. But I did get a distinct "bone-picking" feeling from this book that put me off a little bit. That feeling is the only reason why I didn't give the book five stars.
Overall, however, the book is pure Italy -- a love of life, and thankfulness for what it brings. As the author travels through Southern Italy, the people he meets and the stories he hears paint clear, enlightening pictures of this mysterious and misunderstood land.
I especially loved the (true) story "U Figlio di Giovanni," about a young man who discovers that his father is nothing short of a hero in his home village. I also loved the fact that the author finds his last name popping up all over Southern Italy during his travels. People respond to his name instantly: "That is a name from here. You have a face from here. You are our family." Doors and hearts open, purely on the basis of a familiar -- and therefore trusted and honored -- name.
This book is wonderful, engaging reading for anyone interested in Italian culture, Italian heritage, or searches for identity. It also evokes Italy very clearly, even for someone like me, who's only spent seven days there. I plan to read this book again!
|Proud to be Southern Italian
Reviewer: Donna Di Giacomo, Philadelphia, PA
I haven't read "Dances With Luigi" yet but I will be sure to check it out now after reading Paul's sophomore effort, "Under The Southern Sun." It's been a long time since a book had me so captivated and made me wanting more.
This is not your conventional "I went to find my Italian roots" book. Paul was on an even bigger quest: To find what value system the Southern Italian immigrants brought over with them. He set out to tell the story from the Italian side of immigration, and I believe he did his job and then some.
I was pleased that Paul was so forthright about the prejudice against Southern Italians by Northern Italians and the history of Southern Italy (some areas pre-dating the Roman and Greek empires). He tackled the subject tactfully and his and his subjects' honesty was a welcome breath of fresh air.
Regarding various Italian settlements around this country: I was surprised to find out that there is an Italian settlement in Denver, Colorado. I was a bit irritated that more mention was made of that and the settlements in North Jersey and New York and no mention whatsoever made of Italians in Philadelphia (besides South Philadelphia).
In all, Paul did an excellent job of conveying the belief and value system of Southern Italians. This book not only made me even more proud to be from the southern part of Italy, it has made me want to make that trip to my ancestral home (Calabria - provincia di Cosenza and Campania - provincia di Salerno), and experience my roots firsthand.
Bridging the Gap
Reviewer: Paul A. Cioe from Rock Island, IL
Most Italian travel and culture books focus on Italian customs and the way visitors react to them. Paolicelli's book is about both, and more. The author recounts his search for cultural roots through the dual perspectives of a second-generation Italian-Americ. But he also has the good sense to let his subjects tell their own stories. The book is part memoir, part oral history. No book has taught me more about the simple but sustaining strengths my grandparents brought to America from Southern Italy almost a century ago than UNDER THE SOUTHERN SUN. I feel I'm reading a chapter in my own family history in the following lines, which the author quotes from one of his Italian friends: "They went to America without formal education, without any wealth or influence, but they carried with them over two thousand years of knowledge of culture and of people. And they thrived. They knew the stories of mankind."
"Southern Sun" complements the author's first book, DANCES WITH LUIGI, but it doesn't repeat it. Anyone interested in exploring family and cultural origins will enjoy both books.
Paul does it again!
Reviewer: la_maddalena from Seattle, WA
I waited a long time to read this book; and I was not disappointed. Paul's odyssey through southern Italy is well described with anecdotes about people he met, the climate, the food, and the language. I went through the entire book laughing and thinking "AHA!"
He made it as authentic as he could using words in a book. I thought of my grandparents often, as he echoed sentiments I have felt, and that they had showed me in many many ways. My grandfather was not an articulate man. He was quiet and rarely had much to say. As a child I recall peppering him with questions about his childhood, about Italy, and not getting very satisfying responses. Paul has done a good job of answering the questions.
If you, like me, have this incredible longing to go back (and I have) to where your family is from, this book will help show you the way.
I recommend this book to the millions of italian americans out there, who are wondering where they came from. Paul will explain.
Reviewer: reneofc from Kenner, LA
In "Under the Southern Sun", author Paolicelli expands the heritage quest begun in his earlier book, "Dances with Luigi" to include an understanding of the generic Southern Italian mindset. Again he travels to the provinces of Southern Italy and explores through the stories of its people, the specific ideals that differentiate him from his American counterparts. His findings are conclusive: the Italians of the immigrant generation may not have been literate, but they passed on a wealth of values that cannot be denied.
If you are Italian American, you will happily digest Paolicelli's ruminations regarding his ethnicity; I guarantee they lend a hand in helping you formulate your own unanswered questions regarding your place in our pluralistic American society.
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