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My Two Italies [Kindle Edition]

Joseph Luzzi

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Book Description

A poignant personal account from a child of Calabrian peasants whose lifelong study of Italy unveils the mysteries of this Bel Paese, "Beautiful Land," where artistic genius and political corruption have gone hand in hand from the time of Michelangelo to The Sopranos
The child of Italian immigrants and an award-winning scholar of Italian literature, in My Two Italies Joseph Luzzi straddles these two perspectives to link his family's dramatic story to Italy's north-south divide, its quest for a unifying language, and its passion for art, food, and family.
From his Calabrian father's time as a military internee in Nazi Germany--where he had a love affair with a local Bavarian woman--to his adventures amid the Renaissance splendor of Florence, Luzzi creates a deeply personal portrait of Italy that leaps past facile clichés about Mafia madness and Tuscan sun therapy. He delves instead into why Italian Americans have such a complicated relationship with the "old country," and how Italy produces some of the world's most astonishing art while suffering from corruption, political fragmentation, and an enfeebled civil society.
With topics ranging from the pervasive force of Dante's poetry to the meteoric rise of Silvio Berlusconi, Luzzi presents the Italians in all their glory and squalor, relating the problems that plague Italy today to the country's ancient roots. He shares how his "two Italies"--the earthy southern Italian world of his immigrant childhood and the refined "northern" Italian realm of his professional life--join and clash in unexpected ways that continue to enchant the many millions who are either connected to Italy by ancestry or bound to it by love.

Product Description


Praise for "My Two Italies"

About the Author

Joseph Luzzi is the author of "Romantic Europe and the Ghost of Italy," which won the Scaglione Prize for Italian Studies from the Modern Language Association. His writing has appeared in "The New York Times," the "Los Angeles Times," "Bookforum," and "The Times Literary Supplement." He has received an essay award from the Dante Society of America, a teaching prize from Yale College, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The first American-born child in his Italian family, he earned his doctorate from Yale University and is a professor at Bard College.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2374 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (15 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #518,232 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  55 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey of Identity 14 Aug. 2014
By Filomena Abys - Published on
A Journey of Identity

I watched a short video on FB of Professor Luzzi discussing the reasons he wrote this book, and was quickly drawn to his story by the strong similarity in our Italian-American experience. I'm an Italian immigrant from Naples Italy, and understand the struggles of Southern Italians trying to adjust to the American life-style.
I think most Americans understand how difficult it must be for immigrants to adjust to a new American life style but what Professor Luzzi describes so well is the struggle for Italians to understand each other. Most Americans don't realize how different the cultures of Italy really are. Most second and third generation Italian-Americans don't understand the cultural differences themselves, and sadly many don't know what part of Italy their ancestors came from.
My Two Italies is not only a personal journey of coming to terms with Joseph Luzzi identity but a wonderful account of the history of a country that has given so much to the world. Professor Luzzi describes the differences of the North and South while the reader follows his personal journey of coming to terms with his Southern Italian identity.
This is a must read for all who wish to understand the complex Italian Culture. Bravo Professor Luzzi
Filomena Abys-Smith author of A Bit of Myself
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crossing the divide 20 July 2014
By Louis M. - Published on
The reader is quickly drawn into this autobiography that narrates the struggles of a Calabrian immigrant family whose peasant background starkly contrasts with the high culture of Florence. Luzzi describes his efforts to navigate these two worlds, to be a sophisticated scholar and still recognize his uncultured roots. Along the way he teaches us about Italian politics and history, art and literature, society and economy. He tells of personal tragedies and triumphs, of the complex dynamic of a family living by values that are out of place in America, and of the peace that comes from suffering for love. Will greatly appeal to those who experienced family life as a transition from a foreign language to American English or anyone who just wants a good and enjoyable read.I read it right through and was sorry when there was no more.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to like this book more 2 Nov. 2014
By Sue Z. Smith - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For the most part, this is an enjoyable book. The insight I derived regarding my father's experience growing up in N.Y. as a first generation child of Italian immigrants, oftentimes, was enlightening. As a second generation child (Italian-American father; German-American mother), I related to the ambivalence the author felt wrestling with the age old dilemma of Italian-Americans vs. Italians from Italy; Italians from the north of Italy vs. Italians from the south.

As I read on, however, I wearied of his clichéd comparisons of northern Italians: fair-hair, fashionably thin bodies, refined cuisine and artistic culture -- with the Italians of southern Italy: swarthy looks, radically different culture (often born of poverty), spaghetti and meatballs, thicker torsos and women's preference for black clothing (often born of vendettas and widowhood). Nothing new in this regard was brought to the table.

The author's exploration of Italy's beginnings, the formation of city states and eventual "union" of the country, provides interesting insights into Italy's enduring divisiveness, subscribing as it does to a political structure similar the that of the U.S. Reading his descriptions of Florence, of the piazza Santa Croce, the Duomo, etal., I drifted into a fugue state of reminiscence, recalling vividly my glorious visit to that enchanting city in 1988.

I wanted to like this book more. I wish the book been structured differently. If only the author's personal/familial relationships had been more fleshed out, highlighting the human side of his story throughout the book. The reader's experience would have been exponentially enriched. He has a tragedy to reveal, as the reader finds out almost at the end of the book -- which is too late, unfortunately, to have real emotional impact.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Title Says It All - Great Book 28 July 2014
By S. Lawrence - Published on
To my great delight My Two Italies is as good and fascinating as its premise. With much warmth and human feeling, Prof. Luzzi weaves two particular strands of Italy: the Grand Tour, Ruskin-in-hand, sprezzatura (genius) Italy and the hardscrabble, sun-scorched, Fourteen Years as Age of Consent south. His parents and older siblings were born in the mezzogiornio (midday sun south) - geographically of course the same country as the cultural trinity of Venice-Florence-Rome but somehow a universe away. When the parents escape to the States for a better economic future they are neither former Italians nor future Italian-Americans. Instead the parents remain steadfastly Calabrese.
The good side of this would be the exquisite-sounding, pre-movement Slow Food meals. Their quotidian dinners today would be the cover story on a glossy food or travel magazine.
The bad side, though, is a tough, old-school father who ostracized his daughter because she dared to want to move out and have her own place - at age 27.
Given Prof. Luzzi's ancestry it seems to surprise even him that he develops such a passion for northern Italy art and literature. Yet he reminds the reader that there's a tremendous legacy of culture in the south as well; he describes a Naples museum in which he was the only visitor in a room filled with important works of art. Memories of scrimmaging through the Uffizi make the solitude alone sounds enormously appealing.
On an early student trip to Florence he's taken aback when a northern girl says of his parents' region, "That's not Italy - that's Africa!" The (intended) putdown made me wonder what the father thought of African-Americans. Was he sympathetic to their plight as a fellow outsider, or did he believe that they should just work hard like he did and quit whining? In short, did the old man realize that no matter how poor his English or olive his skin, being not-black offered a slender strand of advantage in the United States?
The author makes self-deprecating remarks about his academic chops, claiming to lack both the work habits of the A students and the free spirits of the C students. In fact he's a wonderfully gifted writer with a lovely sprinkling of sprezzatura of his own.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars he examined his family experience with love, respect 10 Aug. 2014
By Joseph Sciarillo - Published on
As a second generation Italian born in the USA, I was curious to read this first generation experience. Dr. Luzzie grew up in a household separated from his parents not only by a generation, but also by at least a century. In a forthright presentation, he examined his family experience with love, respect, and honesty. I found My Two Italies compelling. It is a deeply personal, and, I believe, courageous work. It peals back the Italian myths (both Italy and the USA view Italy through mythical lenses) and shows the reality. The memoir details Dr. Luzzi’s coming to terms with his family and in another context suggests that strong Italian family bonds help to explain Italy’s dysfunctional government. Reading this book was time well spent.
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