Di Mauro, Maura and Bettina Gehrke, eds., Feeling Italian

Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at diversophy.com

You will no doubt pick up this book, as I did, with unconscious biases and expectations in full frame, telling me what to look for, what to question and where to stack it in my mental library. How can we, I thought, deal with national and ethnic identity in a time where so many other realities determine who we are and how we live, feel and think? How can we possibly label reality with its endless accents, communalities, divergences and deficiencies? The answer is inclusion, and that is precisely what the editors and contributors of this colorful volume have accomplished excellently.

The iconic age is upon us with our devices serving up by the minute more images, gifs and videos than we can possibly digest. They flash onstage in front of our defenseless selves in the theater of daily existence and pass into the unconscious, often with no reflection at all, with no context other than what our memories or fantasy, our ever-active synapses will create backstage and automatically store in our brainventory of props for future scenes.

Enter the book. Yes, the book! Not just any book, but a rich gallery of images, author identified as contexts of the complex reality which make up both the everyday and internal experiences of their subjects. We see people living, feeling, coming and going and expressing their relationship to the varied stories, geography and social entities of the Mediterranean boot. The fixity and feel of smooth paper hold unpixelated images for a second and third look. We absorb and reflect.

Unlike so many attempts to describe identity that are largely stories of how a certain past explains a certain present, Feeling Italian teeters on the edge of the towering question mark of the future and what an extraordinary collection of peoples and their Italian stories will bring to it.

Living as we do in a surge of populism and political turmoil, a large part of us wants surety and fixed labels, to be part of a recognizable brand. What this book shows us is that a tag, a national identity, can be liberated from narrowness, exclusion and become an open-eyed invitation to today’s and tomorrow’s multifaceted and multifaced togetherness.

Put simply, the amateur chef in me salivates over the authors’ metaphor that sees humanity, within an Italian frame or elsewhere, as the endless varieties of pasta that can be shaped from the same dough and sauced with infinite sorts of nourishing ingredients and tasty flavors. Prendete le forchette! Mangiamo!

SIETAR Italia, 2020, 979-12-200-5512-32,https://store.streetlib.com/en/maura-di-mauro/feeling-italian

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →