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Between Two Worlds: Sicily and America
The book describes in stunning detail Luisa's experience as a daughter of Sicilian immigrants while growing up in Montclair, NJ during the 40's and 50's. Luisa shares her many-layered understanding of Sicily and of Sicilians in America. As her father always told her: "If anyone asks if you are Italian, you must say "No, I am Sicilian."
Reviews
In this slim but weighty debut memoir, LoCascio details her experiences as a daughter of Sicilian immigrants while growing up in Montclair, N.J., during the 1940s and ’50s. LoCascio divides her work into five parts: family stories, women’s narratives, accounts from across the sea, immigrant chronicles, and “the rest of our stories.” She writes of her birth as a surprise, late-in-life baby (“At first, they thought I was a tumor, but nine months later, on September 4, 1937, I was born”), how she idolized her father, and of the differences between her parents: “And so I grew up with my father’s philosophy of life, where change is not only inevitable but desirable, side-by-side with my mother’s holding on to the supremacy of family and the Old Ways.” Throughout, she daydreams about Sicily—only to visit her ancestral town of Cerami to find that not everything was as bucolic before her father moved to America (“Yes, your father’s uncles burned down the municipio,” a resident tells her). LoCascio’s lyrical descriptions (“pushing the [pasta] shells into the center of the table like memories”) add depth and color to the narrative. These vividly remembered recollections will charm readers. (Self-published)
Thomas Filbin

Between Two Worlds: Sicily and America by  Luisa LoCascio.  Legas. Mineola, New York.
 
Review by Thomas Filbin
 
 
 
Luisa LoCascio’s father often told her when she was growing up, “If anyone asks if you
are Italian, you are to say ‘No, I am Sicilian.’” LoCascio’s memoir is a story of immigration and
settlement in America without the abandonment of one’s culture and context. Born in 1937,
her memories of childhood and adolescence in the 1940s and 50s are colorful and detailed, and
throughout the book we are imbued with the sense of a tight family bond, albeit with strong
minded individual members not always in accord.
Papa LoCascio was born in Cerami, Sicily and came to New Jersey as a child. He was a
dreamer and thinker, and although failing at business several times in the Depression, was able
to keep a family with seven children afloat. He would tell Luisa stories of Sicily that informed
her investigations of family history and later prompted visits to Sicily to discover the magical
and tragic narrative of an island which considered itself a country, even after many invasions
and occupations. The fact that so many Sicilians came to America to escape dire poverty did
not, in this telling, reduce them as people, only make them conscious of the cruelty of fate and
the hope that history would not endlessly repeat itself.
LoCascio explores learning about the Sicilian Vespers, Garibaldi, and Verdi, and trying to
separate myth from reality, such as in how much Catholicism was to be believed. Her father
considered himself religious, but had a deep antipathy toward cardinals, bishops, and priests as
traditionally in Sicily they had aligned themselves with the ruling class and lived far better than
their flocks, eschewing Christian poverty as if it did not apply to clerics. LoCascio’s mother was
devout but also skeptical, and did not want her daughter to fall under the spell of a strict and
joyless order of nuns who taught at the parochial school, sending Luisa to public school instead.
In matters of sex, marriage, and men LoCascio recounts with dry humor things her
mother told her.  Once Luisa asked her mother why a girl of sixteen back in Cerami married an
older man. “Because she liked the way he played the violin,” Mama replied.
“Was she being ironic? Was she telling the truth? I’ll never know,” LoCascio writes.
LoCascio notes that no one at that time ever asked a girl what she wanted to be when
she grew up. To marry and have children seemed both the answer and the destiny, but when
LoCascio and one of her sisters announced they were going to college and nursing school
respectively, there was paternal resistance for fear of the evils of life outside the neighborhood,
and yet at the same time some pride on Papa’s part for having children with dreams.
The research LoCascio conducted in Sicily to find family roots and local legends brings
her story full circle. One cannot know the present without discovering the past, and the
richness and reality of ethnic identity forms part of personality and consciousness.
Although Between Two Worlds could be the story of many Sicilian families who came to
America, LoCascio has told it with a warmth and insight that makes it seem sui generis, as well
as filled with a romanticism that modern family life seems to have lost in the di

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