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”
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
He went through Ellis Island
Sign around neck
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
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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