Thirty-One Days of Italians
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Thirty-One Days of Italians
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Helen Barolini (1925) Called the Dean of Italian American writers, Helen Barolini, author of more than fifty literary works including her classic novel Umbertina, is skillfully adept in depicting Italian American culture from a woman’s point of view. The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Barolini traveled among cultures after her marriage to an Italian journalist. She has received numerous awards, among them “Best American Essays” (twice), the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States’ “Lifetime Achievement Award,” “Sons of Italy Literature Award”, and Americans of Italian Heritage “Literature and the Arts Award.” In June 2008, Barolini won the prestigious "Premio Acerbi," an international literary prize, for the Italian version of Umbertina.


After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Syracuse University, Barolini attended Columbia University and received a Master's degree. She continued her education at the University of London and then wrote about Europe for an American newspaper. In 1976, Barolini received a writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. For Umbertina, published in 1979, Barolini, received the “Women in Literature” Award from the American Committee on Italian Migration. The book has been a mainstay in college classes that examine women and culture, and Umbertina was reissued in 1999. Barolini travels between the United States and America, conducting seminars about Italian American culture.


Official Web Site


Papers at Syracuse University


Italicity (Text of Lecture on Italian Culture)




John Ciardi (1916-1986) Poet laureate, etymologist, awarded numerous honors, and namesake of the award which honors poets for their significant contributions to Italian American poetry, John Ciardi was the son of Italian immigrants who migrated to Massachusetts.


In 1938, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tufts University, and as a recipient of the Avery Hopwood Award for poetry, he attended the University of Michigan. In 1940, his first book of poems, Homeward to America, was published. After serving in the Air Force during World War II, Ciardi taught English at Harvard University for seven years and then at Rutgers University until 1961. His book, How Does a Poem Mean? provided an introduction and interpretation to poetry, and has been used in high schools and colleges.


Ciardi wrote 21 books of poetry and 16 volumes of children’s poetry – including his most popular, I Met a Man Who Sang the Sillies – in a style crafted to appeal to mass audiences; and he is well known for his translation of Dante’s Inferno. From 1956 to 1972, he was poetry editor of the Saturday Review and after leaving Rutgers, he traveled, lecturing about poetry. He was a frequent contributor to National Public Radio, and was the host of “A Word in Your Ear” from 1979 until his death in 1986.




On Words (NPR Podcast)


John Ciardi Collection


Three Poems by John Ciardi



Pietro di Donato (1911-1992) Best known for his 1938 novel, Christ in Concrete – which was later made into the 1949 Venice Film Festival award winning movie Give Us This Day – Pietro di Donato was the child of Italian immigrants who journeyed from Abruzzi and made their home in New Jersey. He became a bricklayer at 12 years old to support his family after his father died in a construction accident.


Basing Christ in Concrete on his father’s death, it first appeared as a short story in Esquire magazine and two years later was released to critical acclaim, besting Grapes of Wrath as the Book-of-the-Month Club selection. Christ in Concrete was praised for its prose and its ability to convey the realism of an Italian immigrant family coming to terms with the culture of America. Di Donato, referred to as the grandfather of Italian American literature, used the language of Italian immigrants to tell the story of their struggles and desires.


Di Donato wrote several other books, none receiving the critical acclaim of Christ in Concrete, which many consider an American classic. He died leaving his last novel unpublished.




Christ in Concrete and Catholicism


Pietro di Donato Papers


New York Times Obituary



Daniela Gioseffi (1941) Born in New Jersey and surrounded by an Italian family on her father's side, Daniela Gioseffi is the author of numerous poems, articles, essays, and plays, with more than 80 published books that include her writings or writings about her. She began her diverse career as a social justice journalist, moving to classical acting, and then teaching and writing. She received scholarships and grants, and while attending Montclair University, she edited the college newspaper and her early poetry was published in the campus literary magazine. Gioseffi's first collection of poems, Eggs in the Lake, was published in 1977, and since then she has published four more collections. Her most recent, Blood Autumn, Autunno di sangue, is a collection of new and selected poems in English and Italian.


Gioseffi is the winner of two grant awards in poetry from the New York State Council for the Arts, the recipient of the "John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry,” and a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Association of Italian American Educators, winner of an “American Book Award,” and was awarded the 2008 “OSIA New York State Literary Award.” She has traveled throughout the United States and Europe, reading and lecturing from her works, and she has been interviewed on television and radio stations, including BBC, NPR, WNYC, and CBS.


In 2002, her verse was etched in marble on a wall of the Seventh Avenue Concourse of Penn Station. She is a member of PEN American Center and many literary associations; and is editor and publisher of two Web sites on writing and poetry.


Eggs in the Lake



R.A. Salvatore (1959) With over 10 million copies of his books sold worldwide, fantasy and science fiction author R. A. Salvatore has appeared on the New York Times best seller lists many times over. Most of his books are series – the most popular being Forgotten Realms and DemonWars Saga – and his works have been translated in 14 languages.

In college, Salvatore switched majors from computer science to journalism after reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. He wrote his first manuscript in 1982, and held other jobs until he began writing full time in 1990. A collection of his work at his alma mater, Fitchburg State College in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, includes numerous manuscripts and papers from published and unpublished works.


In American Library Association regional conferences, Salvatore has given talks on why young adults are interested in fantasy and adventure fantasy. With more than 42 books, Salvatore has influenced and inspired many readers, and he has recently collaborated with his son to write a new fantasy trilogy for young readers. Salvatore also wrote the story for the video game Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone.

R.A. Salvatore Web Site

Robert A. Salvatore Collection



Schiavo, Giovanni (1898-1983) Cited by many as the person most responsible for initiating Italian American studies, most notably in history, Giovanni Schiavo was born in Sicily and migrated to America in 1915. He attended John Hopkins University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1919, and attended Columbia University and New York University for graduate studies in economics and banking. He worked on the editorial staff of several newspapers and in 1934, he started Vigo Press, established to publish his works on Italians in America.


Schiavo wrote a collection of books focusing on the Italian influence in America that included The Italians in Chicago Before the Civil War (1934), The Italians in America Before the Civil War (1934), Philip Mazzei, One of America's Founding Fathers (1952), Four Centuries of Italian-American History (1952; republished in 1993), Antonio Meucci: Inventor of the Telephone (1958), and The Italians in America Before the Revolution (1976).


In 2005, a two-story brick building – built in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri for an Italian restaurant and residence – was accepted in the National Register of Historic Places. The architect and builder Louis Scatizzi collaborated with the owner of the property and restaurateur Armando Pacini in designing the building, and the prominent architect was featured in The Italians in Missouri (1929), written by Schiavo. In the registration form for historical recognition, Schiavo’s book was cited as a resource; and the application itself gives an historic overview of the lives of Italian immigrants in the early 1900s.


The library of the American Italian Cultural Center (in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans) houses the Giovanni Schiavo Collection, the complete works and research materials. Schiavo’s books are available from numerous online sources.


Giovanni Schiavo, the Pioneer of Italian American Studies


National Register of Historic Places Registration Form


American Italian Cultural Center


Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.