If the Sidewalks of These Streets Could Talk examines the representation and construction of Italian-American identity in writings of first-generation immigrants of the 1890s to 1960s.
A focus on three distinct genres-crime fiction, immigrant letters, and autobiographies-reveals different aspects of the complex processes and strategies of ethnic identity formation both across and within different genres.
Because of its particular confluence of writer, audience, social function, and genre conventions, each genre describes different forms of identity formation. Ethnicity, interpreted through the lens of recent scholarship, emerges as an 'invention', a mobile form that is partly a product of social environment, but also partly a set of tactical responses to particular cultural and political situations. Thus, each genre becomes a particular space of resistance to an identity imposed from the outside as well as a space for elaborating a new self, neither fully American nor merely Italian, and for defining the processes of identity formation themselves.
This book includes an extensive bibliography of works written in both English and Italian, covering theories of ethnicity and identity formation, the history of immigration to the US, and the history of Italy and Italian immigrants.
Most important, though, is the book's emphasis on primary texts-many unpublished, written in Italian, and/or published by Italian-American presses. The volume and diversity of these previously unknown and unstudied texts add great range and depth to the body of works available to the fields of ethnic studies, immigration studies, American Studies, and Italian American Studies, and they provide many new opportunities and directions for future investigations.