Our Roots are Deep with Passion

Other Press, 2006
Lee Gutkind, Editor
Joanna Clapps Herman, Editor

In the twenty-one nonfiction narratives collected in Our Roots are Deep with Passion, established and emerging writers with family ties to Italy reflect on the ways that their lives have been accented with uniquely Italian-American flavors. Several of the essays breathe new life into the time-honored theme of family—Louise DeSalvo honors her grandfather, nick-named “the drunk” because he spent his life of hard work drinking wine instead of water, and James Vescovi portrays the close of the stormy relationship between his father and grandmother. Other stories tackle the mystical side of Italian-American life, like Laura Valeri’s account of a summer vacation séance in Sardinia that goes eerily awry. And elsewhere, Stephanie Susnjara charts the history of garlic in society and her kitchen, and Gina Barreca offers an unabashed confession of congenital jealousy.

Lee Gutkind, founding editor of Creative Nonfiction, the nation’s premier nonfiction prose literary journal, and Joanna Clapps Herman have brought together artful essays by novelists, scholars, critics, and memoirists from across the country. The pieces are as varied as their authors, but all explore the unique intersections of language, tradition, cuisine, and culture that characterize the diverse experience of Americans of Italian heritage.

PRAISE FOR Our Roots are Deep with Passion:

This collection of essays on being Italian-American (or in some cases, an Italian in America or an American in Italy) is filled with imagery and topics of not only food and wine but Catholicism, immigration and linguistics. In a poetic tale of family and forced immigration with Catholic and culinary undertones, Louise DeSalvo’s ” ‘MBriago” is the collection’s opener as well as a literary high point. In “Sacrifice,” Maria Laurino writes of an Italian-American who sacrifices her life to care for her disabled son; Edvige Giunta describes her native Sicily in “The Walls of Gela.” Almost every essay in the collection explores the notion of someone surrendering a major part of themselves (their homeland, their identity, their childhood, their Saturday afternoons, their happiness) for the greater good of their family. The stories are inspiring, but they also give the collection a bittersweet flavor. In the end, this welcome collection challenges preconceived notions about Italian-Americans.—Publisher’s Weekly

Being Italian-American is more than just your nonna’s bolognese, First Communion and colorful Soprano-speak. A leading literary journal has collected 22 essays (and a foreword by actor Joe Mantegna) on unexpected subjects, from a father’s accordion to a lesbian wedding, Italian-style.—Newsday

This thoroughly enjoyable and instructive essay collection also serves as Volume 30 of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction. Gutkind (founding editor, Creative Nonfiction) and Herman (creative writing, Manhattanville Coll.) either performed their editing duties superbly, had an enormous pile of writing talent from which to pick, or some combination of both circumstances judging from the engrossing results…. Essential… engaging… and highly recommended.—Library Journal