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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 amazon.com.

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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Summer 2016 Selections


SACRIFICE ON THE STEPPE: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign (1942-1943)

By Hope Hamilton

“Damn the war and damn him who makes us fight.” Though these were the words of just one Italian soldier, it was the sentiment shared by all who served on the Russian front in World War II. When the Italian soldiers entered Russia, they did so ill-equipped, undersupplied, and perhaps worst of all, without an understanding as to why they were there. They didn’t want to fight the Russians and were shocked at the mercilessness with which the Germans treated civilians. In fact, many Italian soldiers felt empathy for Russian civilians, often times developing close relationships with them.

In Sacrifice on the Steppe, you will see how Hitler’s war machine and Mussolini’s deference to it led Italian soldiers into a war that was not theirs against a country they didn’t desire to fight. Many did not come home, either dying in battle or freezing to death in the harsh Russian climate, the temperatures so low (-40º) that not even amputation was felt. Half of Italian soldier deaths on the Russian front came from the elements, and this narrative will bring the true horridness of those deaths to light.

The soldiers who were taken prisoner had it just as dreadful, entering into appalling conditions. The most notorious of prison camps was Khrinovoje, a place where “one doesn’t live like men, one dies like animals.” The prisoner experience eerily foreshadows the Cold War, many of them coming into direct contact with just how rigid Communist Russia’s ideology was.

Sacrifice on the Steppe and its many remarkable anecdotes will not simply bring you in touch with your most empathetic side, it will make you thankful for every opportunity you have in life after traveling alongside a group of soldiers who had none.

ROSALIA’S BITTERSWEET PASTRY SHOP

By Rosanna Chiofalo

Enter the world of sweets with Claudia Lombardo, a writer who travels to Sicily to find out about the mysterious cake that chefs from all across the world come to sample. This renowned layered cake—La Cassata—is not made in your typical bakery; it’s made in a convent. While many claim that this pastry uses a secret ingredient, the head nun named Sorrella Agata refutes this and invites Claudia to make the pastry alongside the nuns.

In order to understand this pastry, however, Sorrella Agata retells the story of the one who created it. A young woman named Rosalia, who experiences the most unspeakable of crimes against her, was abandoned in a cave and found by nuns. She finds refuge in the convent, helping with chores and eventually assuming baking duties while gradually confronting her past—a process which may account for the secret ingredient.

With each chapter named for an Italian pastry that then appears in the chapter, Rosalia’s Bittersweet Pastry Shop will take you into the wonderful world of Italian desserts. Flashbacks set in the 1950s will acquaint you with Italy’s old customs, particularly highlighting gender differences that existed and how marriage was approached.

The novel’s sentimental writing helps coat the harsh realities of the world that Rosalia faces. As the story progresses, you will experience parts her healing but in a way that poses the question: does any convalescence come at its own price? Ultimately, you may find yourself wishing that it didn’t and regretting some of the decisions that Rosalia makes—yet wondering if she is bound to them.