Edge City
Edge City
The Chronicles of Bobby A: Un Italian’ in the USA
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Edges, both jagged and sharp, spring from the 

tension of living and maturing between two conflicting factors:  

cultural assimilation – on the one hand suppressing ethnic identity 

in the public square – and on the other, developing a personal 

identity which internalized that heritage. Edge upon edge, these 

elements represent the conflicts for Italian immigrants within the 

melting pot of L’america. This collection of memoirs and reflections, poetry and prose, takes the reader through one man’s experiences 

as a first born Italian in America and an American in Italy. 

Italian-Americans will recognize the challenges of assimilation 

in “Edge City”. Readers of all ethnicities 

will gain a new understanding of 

the Italian culture in America.




Call me Bobby A. A late winter’s day. Spring dawns.

Hey! What was that? Did you see it?

A light piercing the sky.  A  . . . what . . . 

Somethin’ flashin’ across the skyline above 

Manhattan’s Gotham Hospital in the early morning hour

  March 20, 1941.

It could’a been , , ,  must’a been lightning .  

Batman.  No?  Hey. What? 

Emil and Adeline were happy

 At the birth of their first born 

A boy …. Born in America.

They named him Robert

New York, Astoria, Manhattan 33rd & 3rd 

Clifton, New Jersey.  Growing up in the 1940-50’s in a 

New York, North Jersey Italian family was time and space filled 

With unspoken love and warmth and timelessness. 

Family was the thing

Parents Italian born 

Robert’s first language a north Italian dialect 

“Cadorine” or “Ladin”

English later.


According to family lore

Dad came to America in the early 1920s as a young man of 19 with a “few bucks” in his pocket

No English

He went through Ellis Island

Sign around neck

“To Philadelphia”

That’s where his sponsor lived

At that time immigrants came  

Under a quota 

With a sponsor who vouched for you.

Also families reunited. Ma came over with her mother a girl of four (c. 1916) to join her father. Both were acclimated to America within a community where most did not speak English.  

In those days you interfaced with the culture at large using Italian professionals who spoke English 

gli promonenti.

It was wise to learn English as quickly as possible 

While suppressing your ethnicity

The idea was blend.

You understood very early you didn’t want to look too Italian. The “melting pot “was boiling and you had to get assimilated bleached Americanized.  Hey fine, except for the fact that the now immigrant groups have turned the concept on its head and assert ethnicity in the public square. 

They eschew the melting pot which became the rainbow.

Adio to the last group melted.


 “Keep your eyes on the road, your

Hands upon the wheel”

Robert Agnoli is an organizer and author. Born in New York City of immigrant parents, Bob is a graduate of New York Military Academy and holds a bachelor’s degree in history/government from Fairleigh Dickenson University and a master’s degree in Social Work (CO) from Fordham University.


Bob has been a Vice President of the American Italian Cultural Roundtable and co-producer of “Jazz ItaloAmericano” at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill. He is a past President of the National Council of Columbia Associations in Civil Service and was Chair and Master of Ceremonies of the conference on “Utilization of Italian Americans in Civil Service” held at CUNY. In addition, he has been an executive board member of the Social Service Employees Union L.O. 371 and chaired SSEU’S conference on “The Future of Social Work in the Public Sector” at the Essex House. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Italian American Writers Association.


His recently published poem, Night Fog, appears in the special 2012 Halloween Issue of Idea Gems Magazine.


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