“When a recent global research poll asked people to respond to the statement ‘Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,’ a large majority of Italians agreed. Americans, on the other hand, overwhelmingly disagreed, reaffirming the belief that we are self-directed individuals who can shape our own destiny.”
Old World Daughter, New World Mother is an essay-dipped-in-memoir, an account of a woman who struggles with the tension between how her mother raised her, and how America raised her. The former, who toiled in the kitchen, proclaimed family life over the individual, and refused to find a job, is who she first rebelled against, opting for college and classes on Feminism instead. The book details how this translated in her experience with Manhattan newspaper The Village Voice, as a speechwriter for top politicians, and most importantly, in having a child of her own, and how she comes to terms with both facets of her upbringing.
This is a wonderfully honest account of how two schools of thought are forced together in the hyphen of “Italian-American”. And no, you do not have to be from Sicily to understand the influence. She uses hilarious examples from the commonly accepted stereotypes, like “the Sopranos” for instance, to draw you in to the Italian mindset.
Above all, the book is very research-based. And your inner style monitor might be confused when she switches from personal accounts to Rousseauean dogmas. Her pedantic nature is relentless; if the occasionally heady, academic material on Feminism, economics, and social constructs of the family bothers you, this may not be the book for you. But if you’re up for the mental stimulus, it is a refreshing fusion of art and reason that delights and challenges simultaneously.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever found themselves mystified by the relative peace of foreign cultures. You will learn so much about how being an American has shaped you, whether you recognize it or not. And I would especially recommend this book to mothers, or anyone interested in what the author calls “the sacrifice of motherhood”. She offers up endless knowledge on pregnancy, birth, and what it means to be a working mother.
Maria Laurino has done a brilliant job of adding substance to the standard, nostalgic memoir, by applying it to universal concepts that you, even if not an Italian mother or daughter, will appreciate.