Category Archives: Review

The Reverse Immigrant

The Reverse Immigrant

The Reverse Immigrant: Return to My Sicilian Roots by Alfred M. Zappalà This book is a love story. The object of the author’s love, however, is not a person. He loves an island, Sicily, or perhaps better his idea of the island: He was not born there. His connections to the island come by way of both grandparents who hailed from Trecastagni, a village on the slopes of Mt. Etna, as well as by an affinity for everything Sicilian. Yet his love for the island is such that in his maturity he has decided to leave his native Lawrence, MA and become a reverse immigrant by moving to Sicily on the slopes of majestic Mt. Etna

Alfred M. Zappalà is a father of three and a grandfather of four. His view on life is that everything else after that is pretty much gravy. He holds a law degree and teaches at prominent law schools in Boston. Considered an expert on the bar examination, he has trained thousands of aspiring lawyers to successfully become lawyers. He has authored several books on the bar examination and a screenplay. He also is a dual American-Italian citizen. He introduced thousands to the wonders of Sicily by importing various products from Sicily, including one that was deemed the best in its category at the nation’s premier food event, The Fancy Food Show. He has posted thousands of times on his popular blog and continues to write of his adventures in Sicily. ISBN 1881901750


PLEASE NOTE: Available ONLY as a Download Only on AMAZON – KINDLE


Book Reviews


Additional Press on Alfred Zappala

You Tube Video


Read about his other books “Gaetano’s Trunk” and “Figghiu Beddu”

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Little Italy in Arkansas

Originally called Alta Villa (the “high place”), Little Italy was settled in 1915 by a group of northern Italian immigrants who came to Arkansas looking for an opportunity to achieve the American dream. Though smaller than other Italian colonies in the state, like Tontitown or Lake Village, Little Italy’s centralized location and skilled winemakers created the perfect atmosphere for a Prohibition-era oasis where central Arkansans could purchase clean, safe alcohol at a time when thousands throughout the nation had died because of poisonous, alcoholic brews. Recognizing the value of this operation, regional politicians allowed the residents of Little Italy to continue producing wine and cognac, thus establishing the community as a regional curiosity and a popular weekend travel destination.

Little Italy by Chris Dorer 


Chris Dorer is the history department chair at historic Little Rock Central High School. A native of Little Italy, he has written a book and journal articles on the area’s history. Dorer garnered knowledge from years of research and countless hours of documenting the community’s oral histories. Images of America: Little Italy weaves riveting insight into images graciously donated by Little Italy’s founding families and serves as a visual reminder of the joy, pain, and hard work necessary to make a positive impact on history.

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MY TWO ITALIES book review by John K Tucci

Joseph is a writer I really identify with. His family is from Calabria like my family. He is among the first generation of his family to go to college in America like I am. He likes books like me.

His first book My Two Italies inspires
a lot reflection.

Having read this book twice, I frequently reflect upon what does the title mean.

Is the title a merely a direct reference to the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley observation in 1818 when he wrote:

There are two Italies— one composed of the green earth and transparent sea, and the mighty ruins of ancient time, and aerial mountains, and the warm and radiant atmosphere which is interfused through all things. The other consists of the Italians of the present day, their works and ways. The one is the most sublime and lovely contemplation that can be conceived by the imagination of man; the other is the most disgusting and odious.

Or does the title more subtly reflect that it is the Italy our parents left and the piece of Italy they created in America that lives within people like us?

Does the title harken back to two Italies in our heritage land – the North and the South continuing to be uneasy with each other more than 150 years after Garabaldi?

Luzzi never explicitly explains and that’s part of the intrigue of the book.

Rather, Luzzi notes that many Americans separate Italy, the Land of Dante, from Italian America, the Turf of Tony Soprano and Snooki.

“We Italian Americans suffer from a form of cultural schizophrenia, half of our soul nourished by centuries of European arts and letters, the other half contaminated by Luca Brasi and Jackie Aprile,” he writes.

“We Italian Americans suffer from a form of cultural
schizophrenia, half of our soul nourished by centuries of European arts and letters, the other half contaminated by Luca Brasi and Jackie Aprile,” he writes.

Luzzi recalls that as Tony Soprano might say, “You know, we’re not really like them, those ’mericani; We Italian
Americans, we’re not really like them either, those italiani
you know, the real deal you get over in Italy.”

Does the title reflect Luzzi’s belief
that the Italian family is like Italy itself: “fragmented on the surface, riven by intrigue, resistant to change, suspicious of outsiders, and quick to set individual interests over group ones? Yet, like Italy, la famiglia has an overarching sense of identity that has withstood centuries of disunity,
corruption, foreign occupation, and church intervention.”

Entwined among Luzzi’s reflections is his memoir of
growing up Italian in America.

 Luzzi recalls that during his freshman year at Tufts, he shared a dorm with one of the campus’s international beauties, Gisela from Turin. He recollects of the reader:

She was rail thin, she chain-smoked, and she
seemed to know her way around a Swiss après ski. Light skinned and as sleek as a Ferrari, she stood
worlds apart from the thick, black-haired women I had grown up with. She was a real European— and she let me know it. When I told her that my parents and older siblings were born in Italy, in Calabria, she snorted. “That’s Africa,” she said, “not Italy.”        

I was twice degraded in her eyes: not
a real American, like the kids from Choate and Collegiate who tooled around campus in their Mazda convertibles and Volvo wagons, and not Italian, with my dark hair, dark eyes, and increasingly dark worldview. My year abroad was
not a program of study; it was a cry for help.

(Luzzi, Joseph. My Two Italies (p. 165). Farrar, Straus and
Giroux. Kindle Edition.)

For a relatively slim volume, Luzzi pours out his heart with so many reflections he seemed to keep bottled up until he could pour them into this book.

Ultimately, he may speak for many like him and me when he mused:

“We commemorate our past only to remind ourselves how far we have traveled from it.”



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Movie Pick for Amazon Prime Customers ‘Remember Me’

Sharing the same psychologist, Roberto, a kleptomaniac who writes stories a bit too realistic and scary for kids, and Beatrice, a narcoleptic who documents everything in her life, begin to see that love can be a cure for their ailments. But nothing comes easily to them, and, just like in Roberto’s stories, the happy ending really needs to be sought after.

This is a good movie, but the dialog moves quickly.  If you need subtitles make sure you turn them on under options.  Amazon Prime Video will not display subtitles by default.

Ambra Angiolini, Edoardo Leo, Paolo Calabresi
1 hour, 27 minutes

Available to watch on supported devices.

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Movie Recommendation for Amazon Prime Customers

Welcome to Veneto to discover that Italian comedy is still very much alive and flourishing! Gualtiero Cecchin (Neri Marcorè), the son of an entrepreneur, must find a new way to make money after squandering his huge family fortune. With an idea and a good dose of recklessness, Gualtiero must find a way to fund his new business while navigating the shady world of the Neapolitan mob.
Starring: Neri Marcorè, Vittorio Boscolo, Anna Dalton Runtime: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Available to watch on supported devices.

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Sling TV – Live TV from Italy Movies, Sports, News and More $15 monthly

Your Channels, Your Way

Watch your favorite international shows instantly on your TV & other devices without long-term contracts or hidden fees. Stream Sling TV at home or on the go, and never miss a show again with 8 days video replay— all available anytime, anywhere.

Ciao St Louis has subscribed to Sling TV and believe it is a great option without long term contracts or hassles.

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Here are three books with publication dates from 2016 that I really enjoyed that you may want to read to get your 2017 reading year off to a positive start.

(The summaries are from their publishers.)

The Nix
by Nathan Hill

It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson—college professor, stalled writer—has a Nix of his own: his mother, Faye. He hasn’t seen her in decades, not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s re-appeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news, beguiles the internet, and inflames a politically divided country. The media paint Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help. To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother and himself.


The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.


Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
by Larry Tye4

New York Times bestselling author of Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend Larry Tye was given unprecedented access by the Kennedy family to write this in-depth, vibrant and editorially independent biography.

Kennedy—nurtured on the rightist orthodoxies of his dynasty-building father—started his public life as counsel to the left-baiting, table-thumping Senator Joseph McCarthy. A bare-knuckled political operative who masterminded his brother’s whatever-it-takes bids for senator and president, Kennedy okayed FBI wiretaps of Martin Luther King Jr. and cloak-and-dagger operations against communist Cuba that included blowing up railroad bridges, sabotaging crops, and plotting the elimination of President Fidel Castro.

RFK’s profoundly moving journey from cold warrior to hot-blooded liberal also offers a lens into two of the most chaotic and confounding decades of twentieth century America.


John K Tucci

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Good Books for Christmas Gifts by: John Tucci


In the interest of being helpful, I wanted to suggest two books I enjoyed thoroughly as Christmas gift ideas for the Italian music loving reader on your list by pointing out two books about American music legends with Italian roots.


Sinatra: The Chairman

by James Kaplan




Sinatra had the world on a string, Had the string around his finger What a world.

This book is the sequel to James Kaplan’s book Frank: The Voice. It completes a definitive biography of Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Kaplan goes behind the legend to give us the man in full, in his many guises and aspects: peerless singer, accomplished actor, business mogul, lover, and associate of the powerful and infamous.
Sinatra: The Chairman, begins with the day after he won his Academy Award in 1954 and had reestablished himself as the top recording artist.

Sinatra’s life post-Oscar was astonishing in scope and achievement and, occasionally, scandal, including immortal recordings almost too numerous to count, romantic affairs, films, Rat Pack adventures, and an involvement in politics that continues to intrigue.

James Kaplan has orchestrated disparate aspects of Frank Sinatra’s life and character into an American epic. It is a towering achievement in biography.

What places this (and Frank: The Voice, the first volume) above others is that it addresses Sinatra’s artistry, rather than just lurid details. This is more than merely a tabloid biography; it’s substantive exploration of the man in all his genius and his messy details.


Born to Run

by Bruce Springsteen



First, the obvious question. What does Bruce Springsteen have to do with

Italians? As The Boss explains in his candid autobiography, Born to Run, Springsteen is a New York (not New Jersey?!) Dutch name. Well, The Boss’ mother’s maiden name was Zerilli. That’s right. Bruce Springsteen is half-Italian. Our friends from St. James the Greater parish in Dogtown will be pleased to know that Bruce is also half Irish.

Oh, and here is a Bruce connection to the great Italian, Frank Sinatra. In his autobiography, Springsteen recounts evenings spent at private parties the at the Chairman’s house. Of course, Sinatra, liked the Boss’ singing, but he really liked the Bruce’s wife’s (Patti Scialfa) singing – referring to her as a great torch singing as she helped sing standards. The Springsteens were one of the very few rock stars invited to the Chairman’s funeral.

Both books are recommended as Christmas gifts and for all want to enjoy a good biography.

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The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age


The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segrè, and Bettina Hoerlin.

 Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist, who created the world’s first nuclear reactor, He has been called the “architect of the nuclear age and the “architect of the atomic bomb”. Fermi held several patents related to the use of nuclear power.

In fascist-era Italy, he produced a new element. With great fanfare, Italian newspapers trumpeted the discovery. The Italian press, by now largely a tool of state propaganda, opined on how magnificently science flourished under Fascism. Some journalists even speculated that the new element should be named Mussolinium. One publication alleged that Fermi had given a vial of the new element 93 to the Queen of Italy. Thankfully, for the element and science, the element (element 93) discovered by Fermi was named Neptunium.

Fermi was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity.

His colleagues in Rome used to joke that Fermi was infallible, like the Pope. He had acquired the nickname “the Pope of Physics,” now the title of a splendid book, The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segrè, and Bettina Hoerlin.

Despite his allegiance to Italy, Fermi emigrated to the United States because his wife was Jewish and the Italian fascist state imposed draconian Anti-Semitic laws.

Italy’s loss became not only America’s gain, but the gain for all of humanity. It was in America, despite starting his life like many Italian immigrants anew, that his career transcended into immortality. As Fermi wrote, “This is a big and free country where you can live without being crushed by the weight of history. In Italy I was a great man: here I have gone back to being a young physicist, which is infinitely more exciting. Throw away the ballast of the past and begin again.”

Fermi and his family worked very hard to assimilate themselves to American society. His friends observed that “Among adult immigrants, I have never seen a comparably earnest effort toward Americanization.” Fermi’s “earnest effort” meant attempting assiduously to get rid of his Italian accent, making frequent use of colloquialisms in his day-to-day speech, and reading regularly what he thought were the most typical American publications: Reader’s Digest and comic strips.

Yet, this did not completely immunize him from xenophobia. Despite their efforts to fit in, within little more than a year the Fermis and the other recent Italian immigrants would be classified by the American government as enemy aliens.

In one incident, an American desk officer announced Fermi’s presence to an American admiral by stating: “There’s a wop outside.” Fermi’s accent and his appearance, sometimes described as swarthy, had labeled him.

But with Hitler still in power, reports of the mass slaughter of Jews confirmed, and Japan showing no signs of surrender, there seemed little choice but to rely on Fermi and his colleagues to create the atomic bomb hastening the end of World War II. Fermi was arguably the physicist most responsible for the world-changing event that occurred in the New Mexico desert, the creation of the atomic bomb.

Segre and Hoerlin are scientists who write well. A good biography should make the reader feel that the reader has traversed the subject’s life along with the subject. Their accessible writing makes the genius Fermi seem relatable to mere mortal history fans who find Fermi interesting as a proud example subject of our Italian American history. Segre and Hoerlin efficiently guide us on Fermi’s humble beginning in Italy where as a child prodigy when a mentor once asked his young protégé if he wanted to keep a calculus book he had lent him, he was told that it wasn’t necessary because he had thoroughly assimilated the material. As people would repeatedly say over the next forty years, “When Fermi knew something, he really knew it.”

Fermi’s legacy far outlived his short life He died at the age of 53 from stomach cancer. Fermi has the distinction of an astonishing record: six of his University of Chicago students and one student from Rome won Nobel Prizes in Physics. To this day, the record is unmatched.



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My Big Fat Italian Wedding at River City Casino – by Lynn-Dale Biondo

You’ve all heard of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”…well yesterday and last night my husband Scott Biondi and I had the honor of attending the biggest, most amazing Italian wedding of our lives…and it was amazing from start to finish! Special thanks to our dear cousins and friends…Rio and Marianna Vitale…for the invitation to the marriage of their beautiful daughter, Marissa Vitale to Robert Fraraccio. There were a total of 24 attendants, 10 Bridesmaids and 10 Groomsmen, along with 2 Maids of Honor and 2 Best Men! The Bridesmaids dresses and Maid of Honors dresses were gorgeous (as were all the Bridesmaids and Maid of Honors) and the Bride, Marissa, was stunningly beautiful! The Groom, Rob, and all of his Groomsmen and Best Men looked magnificently handsome! It truly was like a “Royal Wedding”…very traditional, elegant, beautiful and holy!!! The food at the reception was delicious and most of us, Bride and Groom included, danced our feet off! Many of us stayed in the River City Hotel and there was a fabulous brunch this morning for all who stayed at the hotel!  River City has nominated this wedding as their wedding of the year for their venue and pictures will be published in their trade magazines. The 2 pictures show how long the head table (seating 26) was…couldn’t even get all of the attendants in one picture!  Love and God’s Blessings Always to Mr. and Mrs.
Robert Fraraccio!

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