La Storia

by Jerre Mangione, Ben Morreale

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Summarize chapters 8 and 9 of La Storia.

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Chapters 8 and 9 of La Storia deal with the experiences of Italians leaving their home country to immigrate to the United States. Chapter 8 focuses on Italian immigrants' arrival in their new homeland, and chapter 9 concentrates on their difficulties adjusting to life in the United States. Let's look...

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at both chapters in more detail.

Chapter 8 is simply titled “Arrival.” It begins with the excitement the Italians felt on their first views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The authors then go on to explain the history and procedures of Ellis Island, where immigrants were inspected. They received a medical examination and a physical examination, and some were marked with various letters indicating some sort of medical condition. The experience was grueling and scary for immigrants, especially for young women, who were often suspected of being prostitutes, especially if they were traveling alone. If the women did not have sponsors, they were often deported.

The authors then explain how young men often met their intended brides for the first time as they picked them up at Ellis Island, and they quote an interpreter who worked on the island for many years. They also remark that many people who were ordered to be deported actually committed suicide out of despair. Officials could detain some immigrants at Ellis Island, and this, too, was a harsh experience.

When immigrants were finally released, they headed to their destinations. The lucky ones were met by friends or relatives. Others sometimes fell prey to the schemes of con artists. This was so common that the Society for the Protection of Italian Immigrants was formed in 1901 for the purposes of helping newcomers who needed it and aiding those who wanted to go back to Italy. The society also investigated and worked to stop schemes that took advantage of immigrants. The San Raffaele Society was also formed to assist Italians, and Sister Frances Xavier Cabrini came to the US to serve immigrants.

The chapter continues with a discussion of the difficulties immigrants had as they traveled throughout the US. Sometimes the myth of America and its prosperity was quickly shattered. America was not quite what they had expected.

Chapter 9 shifts to a discussion of Italian immigrants' early life in America. Titled “Security in Tight Little Islands—The Early Days,” the chapter focuses on the tight communities these immigrants formed to support one another. Neighborhoods became the focus of Italian-American life even as immigrants moved throughout the country. Many of them stayed in cities because they came too late to take advantage of the land distribution.

The authors then zoom in on life in New York's Mulberry District, where many Italians settled, and the hardships of their daily lives and work. Life was tough. People were extremely poor. Yet Italians managed to work their way up in the world, very slowly. The chapter discusses everything from the immigrants' eating habits to entertainment. It focuses especially on the horrible working conditions that many of them faced and the low wages they earned. Even though every member of the family worked, they could sometimes not make ends meet.

The chapter also presents the various societies organized to assist these immigrants, including the Order of the Sons of Italy. Yet there were also prominent men, even Italians, who for their own purposes worked to keep immigrants confined to their “Little Italies.” The authors also speak of the appalling health and housing conditions in these neighborhoods and the separations and prejudices even among the people who lived in them as Northern Italians and Southern Italians often clashed.

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