We have a great book to share with all of you that will relate to every Italian-American allowing you to get completely lost in this elaborate story. Elizabeth Street authored by Laurie Fabiano takes place in the early 1900’s and tells the story of a family that recently emigrates from Italy now living in New York City and is terrorized by the Mafia. The twist is that Fabiano is writing about events that actually took place, and the characters are based on her own family members.
After extensive research through the 1909 New York Times publication and visiting the town of Scilla, Calabria, from which her family emigrated, Fabiano delivers this story seven years in the making. Fabiano’s grandmother had been kidnapped at the age of 17, and this was kept as a family secret, which Fabiano felt the need to uncover. In 1989, Fabiano interviewed her grandmother in front of a video camera in order to get the facts. Upon realizing how complex the story was, Fabiano became aware of the need to map out her family tree (which is featured in the book) in order to better-understand the events within the proper time frame. During her research, Fabiano did not initially have the intention of publicizing the story until she herself became a mother and realized how important it was to tell the tale.
When she finally did start writing the book, Fabiano learned that she needed to actually visit Scilla, Calabria in order to better-illustrate the detailed events, images, and general feel which the reader now gets to enjoy in the book. She even met distant relatives for the first time during her visit to Calabria who had each given her a fragment of the story about the kidnapping.
On September 11, 2001, Fabiano was in New York City and injured in a stampede of people when the tragedy hit. At that point, her daughter and husband were the only things in her life she wanted to focus on. Having the need to regroup, Fabiano did not write again for an entire year. After that time, however, Fabiano was now in too deep into telling this story and needed to complete it. Now that she did, she’s identified how healing it has been to many other Italian-Americans whose ancestors were terrorized by the Black Hand.
Elizabeth Street tells a truly compelling story with complex characters while delivering an accurate depiction of the settings (both Calabria & NYC), immigrant experience, and American society during the early 20th century. When you read the book, please tell us your thoughts!
FYI – Elizabeth Street made Oprah’s 2010 Winter Reading List!