2. Write or be written
2.1 Write or Be Written (Till Now) The
idea for IAWA came out of a tragic event in the racial wars of the
Many Italian Americans, writers and scholars in particular, felt excluded
from representation at this moment. Many of them opposed racism. Many of them
opposed violence. Many had spent years studying the social and cultural
struggles that followed the Italian migration to the
"We must tell our story ourselves," Italian American writers said to one another, "or others will tell it for us." Italian America has no national newspaper, no television station, no university, no great publishing house to call its own. The voice of Italian America is effectively silenced. Its voluntary organizations do an excellent job of representing organized opinion, but the market of representations often calls for something more rapid, more dramatic, than anything organized opinion alone can produce. Organizations are necessary, but they need thinkers to study, poets to read, historians to keep them well informed. The public forum requires organizations, but it also requires public voices.
Public voices are voices of intellectuals: poets, essayists, novelists,
dramatists, researchers, critics, political philosophers, social scientists,
artists, historians, theorists. Any of these might have gained a public hearing
at a moment like the moment of Yusuf Hawkins in 1989.
Some of these intellectuals ought have appeared on
Nightline or the Op-Ed pages of the great
Italian Americans must tell their story for themselves, the writers decided. The early meetings of IAWA became like freeform workshops. Writers found ways to elicit and to support one another’s work – assisting others to find publishers, reviews, even jobs. Many collective enterprises – anthologies, journals, collections – have appeared. Most important, writers began to think of the Italian American position as something that needed articulation, something they might seriously consider doing themselves.
2.2. Write or Be Written (Now) Every step in the development of IAWA is designed to encourage or to assist Italian American writers to discover and to deploy the power of writing. The Year of the Italian American Book includes the following initiatives:
A Series of Career Workshops, directed by Liz De Franco, began early this year. There have been workshops devoted to questions of self-publishing, of writing for magazines, of niche publishing, and of writing mystery fiction. Future workshops will be of interest to writers who wish to publish poetry, fiction, essays, and other forms of marketable writing.
Essay Competition. This year, IAWA’s Anne and Henry Paolucci Prize in Italian American writing is conducting its third annual competition. The first year’s prize was for poetry, and was won by Annie Lanzillotto, the second year’s prize was for fiction and was won by Rosalind Palermo Stevenson. This year’s award will go to an essay on Italian American literature.
IAWA’s first national conference The Italian
American Book will present major Italian American writers and critics
discussing the issues of Italian American writing. What does it mean to
break the silence that attaches itself to the Italian American position? What
does it mean for an Italian American woman to tell the story of her
relationship with her parents? How does one make a career in literature?
All these questions, and many others vital to writers who wish to break out of
silence, will be a part of the discussions on October 13 and 14 at the
Museum of the City of
2.3 Write or be written (The Future) The writers of IAWA look for writers to offer new representations of Italian America. These will be texts written from one or another Italian American position. They will be writings that render their positions with point and passion and eloquence. Readers will find them irresistible.
When Italian American readers are fully conversant their literature and
history, they will find writers to examine it from the inside. The Italian
American ideology – the family, the saint, the pride of descent – will come
under the scrutiny of Italian American writers. Their works will be studied in
schools by all students, part of the general curriculum that any citizen of the