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Flavor and Soul : Italian America at Its African American Edge (Hardcover) (John Gennari)
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John Gennari sets out on a quest to find ?tutti,” the everythingness that sits on the edge?now smooth, now serrated?between Italian America and African America. ?Tutti,” a black friend of his says, ?the unshakeable belief in beauty, in overflow, in everythingness, the bursting, indelible beauty in a world where there is so much suffering and wounding and pain . . . .” Frank Sinatra’s legend has meanwhile grown through the idolatry of a new hip-hop generation, we see octogenarian Tony Bennett (Anthony Dominick Benedetto) undertaking concert tours with 20-something Lady Gag (Stefani Angelina Germanotta) while Mario Batali continues to imperialize and monetize Italian cuisine, and Rick Pitino and other Italian American coaches shape championship rounds of college basketball. The essential argument about American culture, Gennari persuasively insists, is the argument about race?specifically, whether blackness, as supporters of jazz exhorted, is an essential ingredient of American cultural reality, or whether, as white nativists warned, going back to the 1920s, it is a dangerous threat to national identity, a force of cultural degeneracy. By the early ?60s, Motown had set up cross-racialism by modeling the figure of the Italian pop ballad singer (and Marvin Gaye cut four ballads-and-standards Motown albums, his touchstones being Nat King Cole but also Sinatra and Perry Como). Gennari deftly sketches the interweavings of Italian and African American popular music from jazz to doo wop, soul to hip hop, including the surprising history of Italians in New Orleans music early in the 20th century. Then there’s Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, evoking the racism of Howard Beach and Bensonhurst, but showcasing the untarnished Brooklyn neighborhoods of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. New York and New Jersey and New Haven are at the center of this remarkable book about the intermingling, mergers, contact zones of African America and Italian America, a big space where territorial masculinity vibrates with robust matriarchal energy; where traditions of singing, dancing, and eating embrace the funky vitality and unembarrassed pleasures of the body; where ear-and-eye intensive sensibilities mark extroverted, charismatic presentations of the public self; a history , complicated to be sure, of collaboration, intimacy, hostility, and distancing. Gennari writes with passion, drawing on black and Italian cultural history, literature, food TV, performance art, and cultural criticism to explore the alterations of pain and pleasure, suffering and joy, deprivation and abundance which have produced so much music, cuisine, athletic prowess, and cinema?full of flavor and soulfulness intrinsic to the nation’s spirit and psychic health.
Number of Pages: 295
Genre: History, Social Science
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
Author: John Gennari
Street Date: March 18, 2017
Item Number (DPCI): 248-28-5019
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