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Sons of Italy® Book Club

The Sons of Italy® Book Club is dedicated to the fiction and non-fiction works of Italian American writers who focus on Italian American issues, themes and history.

Preference is given to books published by the major publishing houses (Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin Books, etc.) because such titles are widely available through bookstores nationally and on

Three to four titles are chose each quarter for a total of 12 to 16 titles a year. The selections are posted here and published in Italian America® magazine.

We encourage all our chapters around the country to choose one or more of the books each quarter and devote part of their monthly meeting time to discuss it.

How to Order:

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Spring 2016 Selections

By Eric Dregni

A window into modern-day Italy, Never Trust A Thin Cook takes you into the customs and quirks that make Italy and its people so unique. Travel through daily life with Author Eric Dregni as he teaches English for two years in Modena, a northern city in the Emilia-Romagna region, close to Bologna.

In this book of personal essays, Dregni takes you through everyday experiences like buying food in the outdoor markets, dealing with the notorious (and often times comical) bureaucracy, and expressing one’s campanilismo, or town pride.

By taking this trip into Italy, you’ll learn about the interesting dichotomy between what is taken seriously and what is not—from sports and coffee culture to bicycle protocol (if your bicycle gets stolen, just steal another bicycle!). You’ll learn the value of parmesan cheese, prosciutto, and salami—and especially balsamic vinegar (which was created in Modena). You’ll learn just how seriously Italians take their food (hint: they consider food from one town away to be imported).

Perhaps the most liberating aspect of this book lies in Dregni’s voice, which carries a consistently friendly and oft-times humorous tone toward life in Italy. Never does it disparage customs that depart from those in America. Rather, he embraces those differences, casting a charming light on them that you will find endearing.

Never Trust A Thin Cook is a must-read book for anyone who wants to experience what it is like to live in Italy and become acquainted with its day-to-day culture. Each of the book’s brief, energetic chapters will make you feel as if you’re taking a moment out of the day to have a shot of espresso with a dear friend.

EMBROIDERED STORIES: Interpreting Women’s Domestic Needlework from the Italian Diaspora
Edited by Edvige Giunta and Joseph Sciorra

In past generations, needlework was not simply a hobby to be enjoyed in one’s free time—it was an identity. To many 19th and 20th century Italian women, especially those of southern Italy, it represented social standing and symbolized womanhood. It also provided a means of income, especially for those who immigrated to New York City, where the top three jobs for women were tailoress, dressmaker, and seamstress.

Embroidered Stories is a collection of poetry, memoirs, and scholarly essays that gives a thorough perspective of the central role needlework played in the lives of immigrant Italian women. It speaks to how the skill and artistry of needlework was passed down from mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter. You’ll see the many purposes of sewing, whether it was to assemble a dowry or knit an afghan or even create a handmade wardrobe for a Barbie doll.

A very interesting aspect of needlework—in addition to the memories it preserves—is how many of the stories speak of struggle. Needlework was often used in order to supplement otherwise insufficient family incomes. Some did so through piecework at home while others entered factories to become veritable sweatshop workers.

In this collection, the poetry is fearless and accessible to readers (see those written by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Paola Corso), the memoirs touching (see “White on Black”by Louise DeSalvo), and the essays informative (see “How la Sartina Became a Labor Migrant” by Jennifer Guglielmo).

There is undoubtedly something for every reader, regardless of one’s prior knowledge of needlework. The writing in Embroidered Stories proves the very thing that needlework itself proves: in a world of machine-made products, nothing is still more treasured than what is crafted by hand.

Reviewed by Miles Ryan Fisher