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My Ideas and Stereotypes About Italy and Italian-Americans Kyle Hurlbut ENGL 47A Like most American kids growing up in the 60s and 70s I got my first ideas about Italy from Disney and Sophia Loren movies. Italy was sort of a joke with spaghetti, gondolas, and Italians had too much emotion to get anything done. At the time I remember wondering how the same country that gave us the Roman Empire was having a hard time keeping up with the bottom tier of European nations. However, my impressions took a very positive leap forward when my grandfather told me all of his favorite places to visit in Italy. He was such a cool guy who loved travel, fashion, design, humor, and people. So when I was 20 years old I following his advise and took a summer off with a European Rail pass. Italy was probably the highlight of my summer of adventures and I began to fill in my knowledge about Italians. To best sum up my feeling about Italy after my first trip, I would quote somebody I heard on a PBS special that if you remove the Italian section from the book of world culture, you end up with a pretty thin book. At the same time, modern Italy started to impress me more and more. I loved their industrial design first, then the more I visited the more I loved their way of living life with their food, espresso machines, fashion, and beautiful scenery. Since that first trip I have been back 7 times which only my visits to Canada come close to and that is only because I am from Seattle, a town right next to Cananda. In my 20s I married Lisa D’Alessandro and I started to know more about Italian Americans even though she was a mix of Italian American and Daughters of the American Revolution (don’t tell her I told you). Her Italian side of the family was had a ton of family bonding, seemed to subscribe to the clear plastic covered furniture school of interior design, and had a lot of fun with life. At least it looked like more fun than my much more straight-laced puritan family had. Lastly I have added to my Italian impressions through working with real Italians in industry. I was surprised how serious and hard working they were. I suppose the Italians get jobs in the heart of Silicon Valley or London are pretty serious about their careers so that might not been a good sample. Also along with being serious, they complained about the lack of opportunities in Italy. This seriousness and pessimism did touch on the same theme I noticed from a recent book I have read; The Dark Heart of Italy by Tobias Jones. This book explores why Italy is a struggling nation, why the Mafia is strong in the south, why the economy is sputtering, and why there are fewer Italians every year being born. My feeling is that my impression of Italians and Italian Americans is pretty accurate, since I have had so much interaction with them. Appendix: My Experience with Reading and Writing I think you also asked about my experience as a reader and writer. Since I am not sure where that should go I will attach it here. Reading has always been a love of mine and I love reading a diverse collection of books including heavy non-fiction, history, economics, culture, art, science fiction, classics, and fiction. My writing is much more pedestrian, but seems to work for me. I had do a lot of practical writing in my career which I first loathed, but by the end did not mind too much. My writing is a bit like USA Today (before editors corrections), it is simple to read, fairly clear, gets the job done, but I will never win a prize for my writing. I was always happy to just be able to write a statement of work, a contract, or even an email that would not blow up with some misunderstood issue.
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Oct 8, 2015