NOVEMBER 2nd - John Gennari

On Thursday, November 2, John Gennari discusses
Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge


 
In the United States, African American and Italian cultures have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. From as early as nineteenth-century African American opera star Thomas Bowers—“The Colored Mario”—all the way to hip-hop entrepreneur Puff Daddy dubbing himself “the Black Sinatra,” the affinity between black and Italian cultures runs deep and wide. Once you start looking, you’ll find these connections everywhere. Sinatra croons bel cantoover the limousine swing of the Count Basie band. Snoop Dogg deftly tosses off the line “I’m Lucky Luciano ’bout to sing soprano.” Like the Brooklyn pizzeria and candy store in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever, or the basketball sidelines where Italian American coaches Rick Pitino and John Calipari mix it up with their African American players, black/Italian connections are a thing to behold—and to investigate.

In Flavor and Soul, John Gennari spotlights this affinity, calling it “the edge”—now smooth, sometimes serrated—between Italian American and African American culture. He argues that the edge is a space of mutual emulation and suspicion, a joyous cultural meeting sometimes darkened by violent collision. Through studies of music and sound, film and media, sports and foodways, Gennari shows how an Afro-Italian sensibility has nourished and vitalized American culture writ large, even as Italian Americans and African Americans have fought each other for urban space, recognition of overlapping histories of suffering and exclusion, and political and personal rispetto.

Thus, Flavor and Soul is a cultural contact zone—a piazza where people express deep feelings of joy and pleasure, wariness and distrust, amity and enmity. And it is only at such cultural edges, Gennari argues, that America can come to truly understand its racial and ethnic dynamics.

John Gennari is associate professor of English and critical race and ethnic studies at the University of Vermont. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont, with his wife and their twin daughters.

 

Event date: 

Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Event address: 

130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304
Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780226428321
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Chicago Press - March 18th, 2017

“In this thought-provoking, academic, yet often lively study, Gennari explores the intersections between African-American and Italian-American culture. . . . Whether he’s discussing the relationship between Italian-American basketball coaches and black players or the importance of food to both cultures, Gennari shows that despite tensions between them, black and Italian-Americans have much in common and understand one another better than many outsiders realize.” Publishers Weekly