For more than thirty years, the journal Italian Americana has been home to the writers who have sparked an extraordinary literary explosion in Italian-American culture. Across twenty-five volumes, its poets, memoirists, story-tellers, and other voices bridged generations to forge a brilliant body of expressive works that help define an Italian-American imagination. Wild Dreams offers the very best from those pages: sixty-three pieces-fiction, memoir, poetry, story, and interview-that range widely in style and sentiment, tracing the arc of an immigrant culture’s coming of age in America. What stories do Italian Americans tell about themselves? How do some of America’s best writers deal with complicated questions of identity in their art? Organized by provocative themes-Ancestors, The Sacred and the Profane, Love and Anger, Birth and Death, Art and Self-the selections document the evolution of Italian-American literature. From John Fante’s My Father’s God,his classic story of religious subversion and memoirs by Dennis Barone and Jerre Mangione to a brace of poets, selected by Dana Gioia and Michael Palma, ranging from John Ciardi, Jay Parini, and Mary Jo Salter to George Guida and Rachel Guido de Vries. There are also stories alive with the Italian folk tradition (Tony Ardizzone and Louisa Ermelino), and others sleekly experimental (Mary Caponegro, Rosalind Palermo Stevenson). Other pieces-including an unforgettable interview with Camille Paglia-are Italian-American takes on the culture at large.


In the mid 1970s, Richard Gambino, Ernest Falbo and Bruno Arcudi co-founded Italian Americana, which ran “not only the historical articles and book reviews that other such newly initiated ethnic journals published but also… fiction, memoirs, and poetry.” Put together by current editor Albright and writer Herman, this anthology collects notable works from across the decades, “great literature that could easily be included in ethnic studies and American literature.” Slotted into five categories-Ancestors, the Sacred and Profane, Love and Anger, Birth and Death, Art and Self-the more than 60 poetry and prose pieces effectively communicate the breadth of the Italian American experience. In “The Garden of the Apocalypse,” Vincent Ferrini writes of identity and posterity: “(Each) person/ carries a civil war within him/ who wedding the contraries/ in himself/ already is on his way/ pioneering the new civilization.” In “My Father at Eighty-Five,” Vince Clemente writes, “I find him/ in the haze and drone/ of the hospital ward, trace/ every line in his sad face/ back to his lower East Side boyhood.” One of the most remarkable pieces is Christina Bevilacqua’s conversation with academic Camille Paglia; in it, the women reflect on a slew of topics, including family, solitude and Dante. With broad appeal and a strong, distinct point of view, this collection should relate to readers of all backgrounds.


. . . pays witness to the explosion of high quality literary art that is one of the signal triumphs of Italian American culture in the last twenty years.-John Gennari
Unlike our dreams that remove us from reality, here we have the written testimony of Italian Americans across the decades, from the early authors who unhesitantly embrace their Italian identity to today’s authors struggling to recover its meaning as it is transformed by the New World.-Rosemarie Crupi Holz