Reviews of...Under the Southern Sun: Stories of the Real Italy and the Americans It Created
From the Publisher...
Paul Paolicelli
Recently there has been a seemingly endless stream of books praising the glories of ancient and modern Rome, fretting over Venice's rising tides and moldering galleries, celebrating the Tuscan countryside, wines and cuisine. But there have been curiously few writings that deal directly with Italy as the country of origin for the grand and great-grandparents of nearly twenty-six million Americans. The greatest majority--more than eight out of ten--of those American descendants of immigrant Italians aren't the progeny of Venetian doges or Tuscan wealth, but are the diaspora of Southern Italians, people from a place very different than Renaissance Florence or the modern political entity of Rome. Southern Italians, mostly from villages and towns sprinkled about the dramatic and remote countryside of Italian provinces even now tourists find only with determination and rental cars.
In Under the Southern Sun, Stories of the Real Italy and the Americans it Created, journalist Paul Paolicelli takes us on a grand tour of the Southern Italy of most Italian-American immigrants, including Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily, Abruzzo, and Molise, and explores the many fascinating elements of Southern Italian society, history, culture. Along the way, he explores the concept of heritage and of going back to one's roots, the theory of a cultural subconscious, and most importantly, the idea of a Southern Italian sensibility-- where it comes from, how it has been cultivated, and how it has been passed on from generation to generation. Amidst the delightful blend of travelogue and journalism are wonderful stories about famous Southern Italian-Americans, most notably Frank Capra and Rudolph Valentino, who were forced to leave their homeland and to adjust, adapt, and survive in America. He tells the story of the only large concentration camp built and run by the Fascists during World War II and of the humanity of the Southerners who ran the place. He visits ancient seaside communities once dominated by castles and watchtowers and now bathed in tanning oil and tourists, muses over Matera--what is probably Europe's oldest and most unknown city--and culminates in a fascinating exploration of how one's familial memory can influence his or her internal value system.
This book is a celebration of Southern Italy, its people, and what it has given to its American descendents.
PAUL PAOLICELLI is an award-winning television journalist and documentary producer. He is the author of Dances With Luigi.
Thomas Dunne Books
St. Martins Press
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10010
Printed in the USA
From Booklist...
In an effort to learn more about himself, his family, and the last generation of Italian Americans to have "direct memory and ties with the great diaspora from Italy during the end of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries," Paolicelli, author of Dances With Luigi, (2000), undertakes an illuminating journey of self-discovery. Traveling through southern Italy in search of the "unique southern sensibility" that formed his grandparents and their offspring, he peels back the layers of a region and a society largely ignored or misunderstood by both historians and modern tourists. In the Mezzogirono, he travels off the beaten path, investigating the tradition-rich social customs that provided an entire generation of immigrants with the motivation and the drive to succeed in America.
Smashing conventional stereotypes of southern Italians, he opens a window onto an essentially unexplored cultural and geographical landscape.
Margaret Flanagan
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved
Mt. Etna (photo at left)  in southeastern Sicily spew lava during the summer of 2001, reminding the world of its mysterious powers. Sicily remains mysterious as well,  more Hollywood fantasy than historical fact.
From Kirkus Reviews...
Paolicelli, Paul
UNDER THE SOUTHERN SUN: Stories of the Real Italy and the Americans It Created
Dunne/St. Martin's Press (320 pp.)
Mar. 2003
ISBN: 0-312-28765-8

Documentary producer Paolicelli (
Dances with Luigi, not reviewed), whose family hails from Italy's south, frames a personal, modern-day quest for understanding within that region's ancient history.
Macaroni didn't come to Italy from China with Marco Polo; it was first concocted in southern Italy--and, of course, from there all else follows, writes Paolicelli, his tongue only partly in cheek. The Italian south is a land that managed "to miss the Age of Enlightenment entirely and find itself in the twentieth century without an intervening period of transition from feudalism."  Which is not to say that it is a land of ignorance. On the contrary, Paolicelli found southern Italy to be a place of enormous enquiry, "a culture rich in ancient lore and knowledge, but poor in textual or academic foundation."  When Italy was unified into a nation at the end of the 19th century, southerners saw their language destroyed, their trade in agricultural products cut off, their land taken by northerners, mismanaged and looted. It's not surprising that the people who had been invaded by everybody from the Longobards to the Nazis learned a thing or two about sacrifice and tenacity, developed powerful ties to family and friends, and maintained a strong affinity for their countryside, even though many left for the US. Much of the region features the kind of punched, rumpled and parched landscape that gives birth to religions and expatriates, with noted exceptions like Sicily; a dramatic and beautiful garden brooding with evidence of a long past. If there are changes afoot on that land over the past few years, elements of the modern rubbing uncomfortably with the old, Paolicelli understands that  "people could get tired of their history if they had been worn down by it,"  even though that history has developed a highly creative and expressive group of people.
  A splendid portrait, vivid and affecting. (Maps)
The Rudolph Valentino Memorial in Castellaneta, Puglia. Not built until 1961, it reflects the community's ambivalence toward its native son who claimed Genoa as his hometown in his "autobiography," and ignored his southern roots.
From Publisher's Weekly...

Like many Americans who identify with cultural hypehation, Italian-American Paolicelli (Dances With Luigi) has a strong desire to explore his heritage through numerous visits to his grandparents' native southern Italy. What he discovers is much more than traces of his own family tree; it's an obliterated history, hidden by prejudice and bias. According to Paolicelli, northerners have looked down on southerners as illiterate, unskilled laborers and considered their dialects to be inferior to the "proper" Italian spoken in the north. The region, however, contains some of Europe's oldest cities, (e.g. Matera, in Basilicata, dates back more than 7,000 years) and has produced many successful Italian Americans, including Jimmy Durante and Mario Cuomo. Paolicelli also writes about less proud moments in the south's history, such as Ferramonti, a Calabrian concentration camp where Italian and foreign Jews were imprisioned with other "enemies of the state." "Unilke their German counterparts, the Italians... had no anti-Semitic beliefs, no taste or liking for the situation and, in fact, took steps to make the camp as tolerable as possible for all involved." Paolicelli's history is a patchwork of conversations, legends and research. His zeal for the stories he hears is evident in his enthusiastic and easy-to-read prose. The larger narrative, however, is a bit choppy. His numerous visits and the lack of chronology make the book more of an account of his personal journey than a serious journalistic pursuit.
Copyright 2003, Reed Business Information, Inc.
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