Title: Only Our Destiny
Author: A.G. Russo
Goodreads page: Link
The Mezzogiorno (Southern Italy). Up to 85 per cent of Italian Americans have their roots in this region. The story of the Coriello family begins in the fictional fishing village of Punto Roccioso along the Amalfi Coast. Alta Italia (Northern Italy) looks down on their southern countrymen as uneducated peasants. With limited opportunities available, many southern Italians dream of escaping poverty by leaving the land they love for a better life in America. But like all dreams, hardships, sacrifices, and realities intrude.
Having lived through World War I, the Spanish Flu, the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, and racial laws, Raffaela must raise and feed her ten children without any help from her estranged abusive husband Giuseppe, who refuses to give her money. With the support of her two oldest children, Geno, and Luisa, she struggles to survive. World War II devastates Italy and Italian Americans alike when “Il Duce” joins Hitler’s side, leaving Italians vulnerable at home and the object of hatred abroad. Young Italians are sent around the world to fight in a war they don’t believe in. At home Jewish families are under increasing threat. Yet, Italian men and women rebound to fight the Germans and Italian Fascists with a large and fervent partisan guerilla army.
Meanwhile in America, Raffaela’s young Uncle Corrado has struggles of his own. He vows to move from the tenements of New York’s Little Italy, build a business, marry, bring over family members, and make good on his version of the American dream. But America is not so welcoming. Ignorance and prejudice reveal the ugliness of the immigrant experience as numbers of Italian Americans find themselves confined to internment camps during World War II.
Their courage and the ability to survive are a testament to the resilience of the Italian people who left their homeland with little else but a dream and changed America in the process.
Only Our Destiny is the story of an Italian family living before, through and after the second World War. It narrates the hardships of two branches of an Italian family during this period: one in Italy while the other is in the USA trying to leave the American dream.
As an Italian myself, too young to have lived the fact narrated in the book but grown up by learning about it during history lessons and hearing the story of that time from my grandparents, I can say that is really accurate and it’s able to fully embrace the atmosphere of those years.
After some shaky initial chapters, it enters in the main part of the story where things start to be really interesting and exciting. This book really let you live what was the second World War from the point of view of many different common people. I think that a book of this kind should be something that students should be reading when studying this particular historical moment, especially the Italian ones as it talks about their own ancestors, to really have a major insight on the events.
Unfortunately, it still has that flaw that I really hate about books talking about culture that speaks a different language than the one of the book: don’t translate terms that are perfectly translatable. Here also we have various Italian words that haven’t been translated in English despite the existence of a perfect way to translate them. Also most of the terms in Italian have the correct translation right after them, but some are used in the wrong context.
However, apart from this small and for most people neglectable flaw, it is a really nice book that I totally recommend you to read it if you want an interesting and enjoyable historical novel.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.