CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Ken Bagnell

Toronto, Macmillan, 1989. 304pp, cloth, $27.95
ISBN 0-7715-9386-4. CIP

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by John D. Crawford.

Volume 18 Number 1
1990 January

This interesting book presents a picture of Italian immigrants in Canada in the twentieth century based on the experiences of individual members of the Italian-Canadian community. The picture is one in which men and women confronted with a dramatic cultural change, including the necessity of learning a new language, make a success of their lives through hard work and sacrifice. Some of the individual lives described are more significant than others, but each is revealing in its own right. Running throughout the text is the implication that many immigrants are divided, if not in their loyalties, at least in their perception of themselves. The need of many to be members of clubs representative of the natal community suggests a reluctance to separate themselves completely from their roots. The succeeding generations face no such dilemma: they are Canadians.

The book provides several important insights. The stigma placed upon Italian immigrants generally through the notoriety of the Mafia is seen as grossly unfair. The problems concomitant with the need to learn a new language create important restrictions in social mobility. The recent tendency in favour of return migration to Italy reveals a loss of roots which itself creates psychological difficulties for people uncertain as to which location represents home. The achievements of individual Italian Canadians is shown as improving the image of a previously under-rated community.

There are ample end-notes, a useful bibliography and an index. A series of photographs illustrates the conditions present and some of the participants involved in the development of the Italian-Canadian community. Canadese does not profess to be a definitive work on Italian immigrants in Canada. It is rather a portrait of that important group of our citizens.

John D. Crawford, Marigold School, Victoria, B.C.
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