The Italian American Heritage: A Companion to Literature and Arts
While D'Acierno's book may mark the high water level of contemporary academic Italian American studies, it is not "the" Italian American heritage reference volume. There are some insights, but this anthology does not capture the dynamic potential of Italian American studies.
From my perspective as a trans-Atlantic scholar of Italian and Italian American studies, the articles by Barolini, Gardaphe, Bona, and Viscusi are the most helpful to a student trying to understand both the past and the promise of this ethnic group. The promise, however, is only glimpsed, because few poets, playwrights, and writers in the vernacular stream are included. Representing the editor's notion of feminism, Camille Paglia is featured, but Paglia does not discuss the pre-history nor the women's history of Italy.
One innovation of the book is the listing in each genre of books that are in the "canon." In its present form the "canon" appears to be editors' unchecked and unbalanced decisions for inclusion or exclusion. There is a good deal of superficial generalizing, e.g., reference to Catholicism without noting the wide and deep pagan substratum of popular Catholicism. There are fleeting references but no sustained analysis of the significance of Antonio Gramsci (no discussion of his very important essay on the Southern Question), Ernesto di Martino, Luisa Muraro, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Dacia Maraini, et al. for the relevance of Italian to Italian American culture.
This gazette of Italian American experience sometime borders on the banal e.g., including Susan Molinari's keynote address to the Republican convention in 1996 while omitting the cultural significance of comari, defining cucina casalinga as "the" Italian equivalent of "soul food. …