Posts Tagged ‘Gay Talese’
This Sunday, I will be traveling back to New York to deliver the Joseph Valletutti Memorial Lecture at the Italian Cultural Center of St. John’s University in Queens. It’s a great honor, and I am really happy to have the opportunity. The event will be held at noon at the Donovan Hall Community Room on campus.
This is my second trip to St. John’s to share the story about the saint and my Italian family in Calabria. In November 2004, I spoke at the Gay Talese Writers Series sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation. That was long before I even knew I would be writing a book.
UPDATE: My talk at St. John’s was a great deal of fun. We had a good turn out, and it is always enjoyable to talk with a roomful of (mostly) Italian Americans, many of whom reveled in telling their own stories after my talk. Meeting members of the Valletutti family, for whom the event was honoring, was also a pleasure. Thanks to Joan D’Angela of St. John’s for the invitation and the hospitality.
An interesting story about an interesting new book — The Bookmaker by Michael J. Agovino. “The Bookmaker opens a window into the experiences of second and third generation Italian Americans who steadily became part of the fabric of New York City life.” The whole story is here.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to receive a dust-jacket blurb from one of America’s great writers of nonfiction, Gay Talese. It was a very generous gesture. Turns out, as this story indicates, the generosity of Talese and his book editor wife, Nan, is legendary this time of year in New York City.
Talese’s classic work Unto the Sons remains the quintessential immigration story. He, too, traces his Italian roots to Calabria, and his father, like my grandfather, settled in Cape May County, New Jersey, and started a business that flourished. For Talese’s father, it was a men’s and women’s clothing store in Ocean City. My aunts and uncles were frequent customers.
Those of you familiar with the National Italian American Foundaton (NIAF) certainly know the name Ken Ciongoli. I came to know it directly. He called me at work one afternoon in the summer of 2004. He had read a magazine article I had written about connecting with long-lost Calabrian relatives and the saint we shared in common. He believed the story represented the ideals of NIAF — to promote the talents and true character of Italian-Americans — and wanted to get me involved. Later that year, he arranged for me to speak at the Gay Talese Writers Seminar at St. John’s University in New York. It was a great honor to participate. Mostly, it was great to learn about NIAF and its relentless crusade, embodied by Ken Ciongoli, to overcome the stereotypes and misconceptions too often attached to Italian-Americans.
Thus, I was saddened to learn yesterday that Dr. Ciongoli, who had been battling cancer, died yesterday at his home in Burlington, Vermont.
In commemoration of his life and spirit, NIAF has set up The Dr. A. Kenneth Ciongoli Colloquium Endowment. For more information, contact Elissa Ruffino, 202/939-3106, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The obituary in his hometown paper in Burlington, Vermont is here.
News flash for the AP wire:
NEW YORK (Sept. 15) —A museum dedicated to Italian Americans has reopened where it belongs—in Little Italy. The Italian American Museum originally opened in 2001 in midtown Manhattan, but it has just completed a move to 155 Mulberry St. at the corner of Grand Street. The museum’s mission is to explore the cultural heritage of Italian Americans and their European roots.