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American Dreaming: A Memoir of Interracial Love, Estrangement, and Race Equality
In a country that can’t seem to close the divide between Black and white Americans, Dianne and Ronald’s enduring love shows how. In the 1940s, Liuzzi Hagan’s father, Frank, an Italian-American, met Ruth, an Australian of Irish descent, in Ryde, Australia, where he was stationed during World War II. They married and settled in Albany, New York, where Frank’s family refused to accept a foreigner into their fold. Much like our country today, the resulting division, vitriol, and isolation were overwhelming for the couple, and their relationship disintegrated into arguments and alcoholism. Thirty years later, in 1976, their daughter, Dianne, met Ronald, who is Black, during their freshman year of college at Syracuse University. Against external judgments, threats of violence, and her family’s strong disapproval, they fell deeply in love. Unlike her parents, Dianne and Ronald found solace, equality, acceptance, and a peaceful reconciliation in their relationship—a lesson for America on healing the racial divide. Liuzzi Hagan artfully weaves the stories of two generations, who struggle against convention, with dreams, commentary about the state of systemic racism and race relations in America, and an intimate portrayal of fractured family relations.
Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Idea: In American Dreaming, Dianne Liuzzi Hagan juxtaposes the history of racial violence in America that led to the BLM movement with her personal history as an American woman of white European ancestry married to a Black man. A passionate cry for justice, the book joins the ranks the many voices being raised in this cause at this moment in history.

Prose/Style: Liuzzi Hagan writes with conviction and intensity. Her accounts of the racist aggressions and microaggressions to which she and her family have been subjected are harrowing.

Originality: It would be good to be able to say Luizzi Hagan's story is unique, but sadly for America, that is not the case. However, her method of weaving together general history, personal history, and recollected dreams makes for an interesting narrative.

Character Development/Execution:  Liuzzi Hagan is angry, and for good reason. American Dreaming leaves no room for doubt as to who are the villains and who are the heroes of her memoir.

Date Submitted: January 19, 2021

Reviews
Amazon

 

Blueshazel 

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellently written!

Reviewed in the United States on February 7, 2021

It’s about time there has been a memoir on this topic! Excellently written, about a life well-lived! We who lived a different story with similar beginnings can really appreciate this!

Amazon.com

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Memoir, Easy Read, and Important Subject Matter!

Reviewed in the United States on January 30, 2021

Verified Purchase

The book is an easy read that you may find hard to put down. It is a memoir filled with personal stories that are told sincerely and can serve to provide readers with perspectives they may not be used to. The author relates stories from her childhood and her early and later adult years that show a transformation in her life and the lives of her family members. Her family suffers from much estrangement as the result of differing views on race and ethnicity. Estrangement and unhappiness appear during her childhood when her mother is never fully accepted into her father’s family, even though she left her homeland to marry him. Then, despite growing up in a family whose parents befriended people outside of their race and “normal” identities, the author becomes victim of similar prejudices. Her siblings never seem to support her either and it leads to further estrangement as they disagree over these issues and more. She cleverly intersperses descriptions of dreams that she has had over the years which appear to convey the mental trauma that these experiences have had on her. It is a book with a strong opinion about what we face as a nation moving forward. However, it did not strike me as optimistic. Rather, she appears to suggest we could go in one bleak direction or we could come together and move in a much more progressive, inclusive direction. Perhaps that is the overall point of this book – to motivate readers into choosing to move towards a more inclusive society.

amazon.com

5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Book For Those Concerned About The Future of the United States

Reviewed in the United States on January 18, 2021

Verified Purchase

American Dreaming is a bittersweet recollection of the estrangement of Americans on all levels, from the micro to the macro. Dianne recalls her own bi-cultural family and the stress and resulting tragedy of unbelongingness and isolation. Her father was Italian American and her mother was Australian and they met when her father was stationed in Australia when he was in the Army. Seeming to be a precursor to the challenges of Dianne's interracial marriage with her husband Ronald, being unaccepted and separated from a sense of personal identity caused damage to all parties in her family which Dianne uses as a paradigm for the damage done on a macro level in American society as a whole and the destructiveness of racist culture and politics.
However, in the midst of all of this, Dianne's and Ronald's marriage and the presence of their children stand like a beacon, an example of how love, commitment, and simple courage can transform tragedy into victory. It is with this example of hope that Dianne makes a prescription for the United States in which she envisions equality and the true spirit of humanity.
Written in an intimate style and including a number of Dianne's incisive nocturnal dreams, American Dreaming will sweep you along in your own dreams for a better world.

Goodreads

Disclaimer: I have known Dianne and Ron for over forty years. Ron, Dianne, my wife and I have formed bowling teams, dined together, watched movies together, and shared our delight in watching both their daughters and our daughter grow into independent young women. Therefore I am not an entirely objective reviewer.

Dianne’s last book, To the Mothers of the Movement, With Love (2017; revised 2019 as Another Day in Post-Racial America) was a cry of distress and outrage at events and governmental responses to those events during the Trump Presidency. The first chapter of this book feels like an extension of that, the anger and fear of that book certainly exacerbated by later events including the insurrection of January 6, 2021, all compacted into a statement more concise though no less impassioned.

With the second chapter, Dianne’s focus changes, her memoir coming more to the forefront, each chapter named after the relatives most closely discussed within. These depictions identify family relationships, good and bad, and family tensions and dysfunctions (I especially commend your attention to chapter five about her Aunt Josephine for a sense of how complex interactions with family can be), laying the foundation for understanding the sources of her personality and beliefs, as well as depicting the America in which she grew to adulthood, the America which she came to understand views Ron with suspicion just because he’s Black. If the sources of her and Ron’s relationships with family and each other are laid out, so too are the sources of her fear and for this book, a plea to our better natures, to whatever fairness and decency we have in the face of an assault on the democracy this country could become with a good faith effort from its citizens.

American Dreaming is a thoughtful, frequently touching memoir of Ron and Dianne’s life together, of their love for each other, of the families they came from and the family they formed. This is not a happy memoir, but neither is it an unhappy memoir, though a sense of melancholy lingers over it. Rather, Dianne confronts the issues that has caused each of them, her husband as well as herself, to feel estranged from their respective families and at odds with the society around them while finding comfort and solace in the family they formed. (less)

Goodreads and Amazon

I enjoyed the book and enjoyed the stories that shared of the past and the present. There was also the added benefit of the commentary of the last four years that made the book very timely. There was honest and reflective writing that conveyed the hardships that the writer and her family had to endure. I would encourage readers to start with an open mind when reading the book and empathize with the author as she discusses her journey.

Indie Reader

Dianne Liuzzi Hagan’s AMERICAN DREAMING is a bold and rousing memoir of interracial love. Hagan shares her story of meeting her husband Ronald in 1976, when they were college freshmen. In a relationship with Ronald, a Black man, Hagan’s eyes were forever opened to systemic racism and oppression in America. Both poetic and political, this is a compelling, passionate memoir with a message of unconditional love and unity in divided times.

Kirkus Reviews

A memoir brings readers deep inside the author’s experiences as a White woman married to a Black man in an America bitterly divided along racial lines.

There were serious fault lines in Hagan’s family before she began dating Ronald, the man she has loved for 45 years. Her own parents faced rejection because of their cross-cultural marriage. Her father, Frank, was born into a large Italian immigrant family living in Albany, New York. He married the author’s mother, Ruth, an Australian of Irish descent, in New South Wales during World War II. Frank’s family never accepted Ruth as one of its own. By the time Hagan, the fourth of five siblings, was born, Ruth was already drinking heavily, and the author was cared for by her 10-year-old sister, Peggy. Despite Hagan’s family’s growing dysfunction, her parents evidenced an easygoing acceptance of Black people. One of her father’s best friends was Harold Van Zandt, a Black man who once offered young newsboy Frank a cup of hot chocolate on a freezing day. And her parents stood up for a Black couple when the neighbors on their block in suburban Albany signed a petition barring the newcomers from buying a house. When the author met Ronald in her freshman year at Syracuse University, she relates that she had already “learned skin color is just an attribute like hair and eye color, and it never occurred to me to make such attributes weapons of oppression and inequality.” What she experienced in a hostile backlash from her family—and the world at large—through major and microaggressions directed against the couple taught her differently, and this lesson forms the primary theme of her memoir. In her timely work, which features family photographs, Hagan sorrowfully, angrily, and articulately intertwines her autobiography with Black history. Sometimes her rage spills out in unrestrained bursts, but the disturbing narrative’s great strength is in its descriptions of the frequent personal slights and off-the-cuff remarks from family members, friends, and strangers that create an exhausting unease and a permeating, underlying fear. Still, at its heart, this is a beautiful love story.

A passionate, informative, albeit dispiriting, call for change with only a few rays of hope.

 

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