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Change, however, rather than pure survival propels newly female created and depicted Italian women -- in Barolini, women are not forces of the home front and reaction and religion, as they are in male urban narratives. Rather, beginning even in Barolini's Italian Calabria, women propel a family destiny of fundamental change. After the first years of struggle, the woman and her husband relocate the family to upstate New York where it is Umbertina's determination and innate intelligence that propels her family to unexpected and unanticipated middle class success and security. Thus, because of the determination of a successive generation of women the family can live out the destiny of the American dream that their forbearers set in motion so many years ago in Italy and resolving the tensions between the Italian-American women's conflicts between their socially constructed dual identities and their yearnings for both success and security, family life and a vocation in the larger American world.
Thus, the addition of female voices has added important nuance to these traditional images of the roles of Italian women in literature. One recent literary addition in critical form may be found in the Evidge Giunta's text Writing With an Accent. This text of literary criticism acts as a challenge to publishers and readers alike to move beyond conventional and stereotypical representations of Italian-American women as "ignorant, " as part of a people whose largely Catholic dominated culture is makes them servants of men, made up of "pasta and olive oil" (Giunta, 2002, p.18) and embrace "more complex life stories that have been excluded from the "public and historically sanctioned narratives" written by Italian and non-Italian men (Giunta, 2002, p.120).
Giunta writes that "women writers of Italian descent have to fight both the culture that silences their ethnicity and the ethnicity that silences their gender" (Giunta, 2002,p. 81). But she is aware that the act of creating art does not simply end the silencing and argues that "the literature of many contemporary Italian-American women simultaneously verbalizes and silences ethnicity" (Giunta, 2002,p.73). In other words, the concept of writing with a distinct accent as expressed in the title of her work signifies that Italian-American women as a group, regardless of age or martial status all, in some way that "are perceived and perceive themselves as culturally marginal," regardless of the status they have achieved socially or economically (Giunta, 2002,p.5). Like Helen Barolini in both her fiction and in her personal essays and scholarship, Helen Barolini, writes Giunta is still that young woman in her perceptions, striving for her father's approval as a woman, yet also striving to realize his economic and educational dreams. The author herself wrote that "in school Pop never got farther than ninth grade because he had to work," in her 1997 essay collection.
Giunta's book focuses on the work of Italian-American women since the 1970s, yet Giunta strives not to essentialize this group of Italian women writers along the lines of previous male authors, rather she attempts to examine and contextualize their differences while simultaneously interweaving them into a powerful intellectual force, a force that is on the same literary par as other, perhaps more familiar female 'ethnic' traditions in American literature, such as narratives of the African-American female experience or Asian-American experience.
Class thus comes to the forefront, as well as the different ways in which religion, the American tradition and construction of success, and the often contradictory ways the familial and immigrant experience has come into conflict with the female experience in American level, over the course of Giunta's text. Giunta's criticism, along with fiction such as Umbertina heralds a new age in which American Italian female experience becomes not simply a coda to male Italian experience, but an important and evolving tradition of its own, as stereotypes are reformed and shown to be contradictory rather than complementary to the evolution of Italian-Americans as a people.
Barolini, Helen. "Pietro Di Donato (1911-1992)." 2005. http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/heath/syllabuild/iguide/didonato.html
Barolini, Helen. Umbertina. Feminist Press, 1999.
Barolini. Chiaroscuro: Essays of Identity. VIA/Bordighera, Inc.: Purdue University, 1997.
Diomede, Matthew. Pietro Di Donato, the Master Builder. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1995.
Donato, Pietro di Christ in Concrete. 1936.
Esposito, Michael P. "The Evolution of Di Donato's Perceptions of Italian-Americans." In The Italian-Americans Through the Generations. Proceedings of the 15th annual conference of the American Italian Historical Association. Staten Island: AIHA, 1986.
Giunta, Edvige. Writing with an Accent. New York: Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2002
Puzo, Mario. The Fortunate Pilgrim. Ballantine Books, 1998.
Viscusi, Robert. "De Vulgari Eloquentia: An Approach to the Language of Italian-American…[continue]
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