La Storia

by Jerre Mangione, Ben Morreale

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

La Storia is the account of Italian American immigration to the United States from Columbus to the modern day. It is written as a popular history and does not rely extensively on footnotes or historical citations. Instead, it provides an overview of the Italian American experience and concentrates on popular figures such as Joe DiMaggio and Mario Cuomo and the experiences of everyday people.

The authors, Mangione and Morreale, examine the roots of Italian immigration to America and trace it back to the unification of Italy in the late 1800s, which placed the north on a superior footing to the Mezzogiorno, the south. In examining the experience of newly arrived immigrants in New York and other American cities, the authors tend to generalize; they write, for example, "Some of the immigrants missed [the Statue of Liberty] altogether, so intent were they upon identifying Ellis Island, which was only a half a mile away" (110). While they tend to treat Italian immigrants as an indistinguishable whole, the authors nonetheless capture the despair and struggle of immigrants during the late 1800s and early 1900s as they adapted to life in New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, and other cities. There, immigrants found that their dreams of America were discrepant with the reality of American life, in which they lived in poverty and often faced discrimination. Over time, Italian Americans also faced stereotypes, such as the idea that they were the only group involved in organized crime (which was, the authors point out, a largely American rather than Italian creation).

In later chapters, the authors discuss the rise of Italian Americans in areas as diverse as sports, business, and politics. In these chapters, the authors tend to rely on a catalog of Italian American achievements by focusing mainly on popular figures such as Joe DiMaggio and Mario Cuomo. However, their analysis becomes more subtle when they discuss the reality of modern times, in which Italians in the US are divided into a large working class and a smaller elite class, replicating the situation from which they came in Italy.

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