Today, The Two Mikes spoke with Dr. Michael J. Canzoniero about his new book The Evil Eye, The Pure Heart, a memoir of his grandmother and the family she made as an immigrant to America just as the 19th century turned into the 20th.
The author’s grandmother was born in southern Italy, much of which was mired in poverty. She traveled alone from Italy — at the age of 16 — and landed at New York City’s Ellis Island in 1897. She met the man whom she married, but after a few years of marriage he concluded that a family could not be properly raised in America, and decided they should move back to Italy. With little money, the husband had to leave his wife in America while he returned to Italy to work and save enough money to send for her. When he had raised the fare, he wrote and asked his wife to return.
In response, he read a letter that contained the thud of a woman very loudly putting her foot down. She wrote that he should come back to America, and together they would raise their family, there would be no going back to Italy to live for her. Accepting that his bride meant what she wrote, her husband returned to New York. Together they raised a family that ultimately consisted of themselves and nine children.
Dr. Canzoniero relates the trials and troubles of the family he would be born into encountered in an empathetic but realistic manner, and describes what was the inherent tendency of southern Italians to distrust educated people because most of those they encountered were from northern Italy, people who were believed to keep to southerners poor.
Dr. Canzoniero notes that his grandmother slayed this problem and all of her children and grandchildren — though they still encountered anti-foreign and anti-Catholic bias — took advantage of the educational opportunities available in their new country. Overall, Dr. Canzoniero’s wonderful book is one that should be of interest to all Americans interested in what America is really all about, and how immigrants overcame the nation’s unfamiliarity — and at times its biases — to build strong families and communities that only made the country stronger. It is a book that the pre-perversion-and depravity Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s would have made into a fine and well-received movie.
–Dr. Canzoniero’s website is https://www.evileyepureheart.com
–Dr. Canzoniero is a clinical psychiatrist who also has written four mystery novels, including Conditional Love: A Story of Battered Emotions, a tale that describes and explains Babe Ruth’s tremendous accomplishment of rising from a very troubled childhood to become perhaps baseball’s greatest hitter.