Reading the Voices of Rhode Island’s Italian Americans

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Virginia Cotungo DiBiase told what happened to her and her two siblings when there were claimed by their father at Ellis Island. They had not seen their father in thirteen years. They did not recognize their father and he did not recognize them…”


“A woman from Thornton, Tribelli, I think. She was a mid-wife. She used to deliver all the babies. To prepare they used to boil water in the kitchen…They didn’t have cribs. They used to make a place with a pillow and put the pillows to the babies couldn’t move or fall. They kept the baby born with blankets. They had to watch out when the baby got big that it didn’t choose by putting the blanket in his mouth”


“Marolyn Senay absorbed the atmosphere of her grandmother’s village of Pugliano and her grandfather’s town of Sparanise…we drove into the town and it was like walking back in time. It was thrilling and more emotional than I thought it would be…”

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Voices, a dinner hosted by the Italian American Historical Society of Rhode Island celebrating the publishing debut of their newly compiled – Voices of Rhode Island Italian Americans

This book is packed with wonderful stories from Rhode Islanders whose families came from Italy in search of something better. Real people that settled in all different areas of the state that came here to work and live and thrive. Some are first person accounts, others are stories told by those who are no longer with us. I am diving into this book now and finding it full of poignant, beautiful, loved- filled words. I am touched by the love and reverence the storytellers have for their families and their culture.

The book is broken down into three sections – Coming to America, Daily Life and Returning to the Paese

The snippets above are from each section respectively. Give it a read. If you’re Italian or not, you will be able to relate to and empathize with the struggles and the joy of these special people.

You can order the book from the Italian Historical Society of Rhode Island. Go to their website and select the contact tab and email them,

I was truly proud to attend this book launch. Proud of my heritage, proud of the people who broke down barriers for me, proud of the work of the IASH committee collecting and editing these important memories. Barbara R. Carroll coordinated this effort and did the editing, and I congratulate her on capturing these voices so that they can be saved, shared and treasured. I was also happy to finally meet Barbara, as we have been messaging back and forth for a while now. I hope to sit with her soon to chat and understand how she developed this collective memoir so that I can attempt to apply her best practices to my book in progress.

Another exciting and proud moment for me was to meet someone whose work documenting Italian American life in Rhode Island inspired me to continue on and work on my mother’s memoir, “A Girl from the Hill: My Mother’s Journey from Italian Girl to American Woman.” Dr. Ed Iannuccilli is a fellow writer that I have been corresponding with and finally got to meet last night, along with his lovely wife Diane. They are both warm, bright, and generous. Just seeing them gave me a shot in the arm to get this publishing thing going. If you are looking for a great read about family life that not only provides rich details about Italian American traditions in the twentieth century, but transcends into the hearts of all cultures and families, I highly recommend his two books.

Growing Up Italian

What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner

Both are available on iannuc,aps,189&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aed%20iannuccilli&ajr=2

Lastly, but certainly not least, I thank my dear, dear friend Kimmie for coming along with me, being enthusiastic about my writing and my company, and making sure I left my social anxiety at the door of the Cranston Country Club last night. We have been friends since we were eight years old, and she is one of the kindest, sweetest and strongest people I know. Plus she laughs at my jokes. She laughs at everyone’s jokes, but no matter. Just another reason why I love her.

Happy Sunday

Buona Domenica

6 thoughts on “Reading the Voices of Rhode Island’s Italian Americans

  1. Pingback: Families to be Thankful for « pattytmitchell

  2. Pingback: A Girl from the Hill – Where it All Began « pattytmitchell

  3. Pingback: The Italian American Historical Society of Rhode Island « pattytmitchell

  4. Pingback: Intolerance Towards Italian Americans- the Life Lessons of Us vs. Them « pattytmitchell

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