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The Italian American Podcast

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IAP 198: Do Italian Americans Read? Novelist Christopher Castellani on Writing the Story of the Italian American Experience

• 66 min

For author Christopher Castellani, the proud son of Italian immigrants, the desire to tell the Italian American story through his writing has been a constant motivation. Yet, despite his abundant talent, irrepressible passion, and keen sense of his ethnic experience in America, upon entering the literary world, Christopher encountered one deep-seated -- and often discouraging -- preconception about Italian Americans: that we are people who don’t read! So, Christopher set out to dispel that myth with a body of work in which the Italian American experience is a driving force behind his story. The first of his five critically-acclaimed novels, "A Kiss from Maddalena," winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in 2004, was inspired by the story of his Italian immigrant mother. His newest novel, "Leading Men" (for which he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council) tells the true-life tale of Frank Merlo, partner and soothsayer of playwright Tennessee Williams and an unknown Italian American whose steady presence might just be what helped Williams achieve his greatest fame and literary success. Set to become a major motion picture, this award-winning novel is the result of decades of work by this passionate Italian American. Join us as we sit down with Christopher Castellani and discuss whether or not Italian Americans really are literary people, and how it is we can provide more opportunities for our story to be told. Of course, since this is the Italian American Podcast, we’ll cover everything from exploring the impact of Elena Ferrante's “Neapolitan Novels” on Italian American culture to debating the merits of the movie “Fatso." Get ready for another wonderful conversation with a brilliant Italian American novelist!

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