Growing up in my hometown, just outside of NYC, in the 1990s, there weren't many, if any, other kids at school - unless they were my cousins - whose parents were born and raised in Italy. There were a lot of Italian American kids, but usually that meant their grandparents or great-grandparents had immigrated from the Old Country.
Now, at home, it was different. The extended network of family and friends (who were considered family) that I grew up around was brimming with children just like me, whose parents came to America from Italy in the late '60s and early '70s. For me, being raised in this environment as the daughter of Italian immigrants was an exceptional experience, which inexorably shaped my character. In fact, although being a creative, modern American girl in an old-fashioned, Italian household was not always easy, it was, indeed, a blessing. A blessing for which I possess indescribable gratitude.
Which is the main reason why, without hesitation, I agreed to join my host, Anthony Fasano, when he asked me to co-host The Italian American Podcast; the first podcast of its kind, dedicated to helping Italian Americans learn about their heritage. There are times in life when we step into something we feel is cut to fit our frame exactly; this was one of those moments for me. Being co-host of The Italian American Podcast feels like a role I was always meant to fill. Anthony's vision for our show originated from his realization, late in his 30s, that he possessed this rich cultural heritage, yet, knew very little about it. Anthony began The Italian American Podcast as a heartfelt idea to simply have conversations with his 90-year-old grandmother and to record the stories she told him. He wanted to preserve those stories for his own children, nieces, and nephews. This idea expanded, as most labors of love will do, to become a high-caliber, large-scale, professionally recorded and produced internet show that explores, captures, and celebrates Italian American heritage. The two of us, together, embody and present both sides of the Italian American experience: Anthony, a third-generation Italian American, seeking to connect with that lineage, and me, a first-generation American, seeking to honor the Italians who raised me, and preserve the culture and traditions they raised me with.
On our podcast, we interview prominent Italian Americans, like bestselling author and filmmaker Adriana Trigiani, author of the blockbuster novel "The Shoemaker's Wife," as well as the Big Stone Gap series, and her most recent bestseller, "All the Stars in Heaven," and Mary Tedesco, host of PBS' "Genealogy Roadshow" and owner of Origins Italy, an amazing company that traces Italian ancestry for its clients. But, our show, which airs live on iTunes every other Sunday (an important day for the Italian American!), also features a focus on the ordinary, every day experience of being Italian Americans. Our recent Christmas episode, "Sounds of an Italian American Kitchen at Christmas Time," captures the love, laughter, and warmth of an Italian American family preparing for Natale. My mother, aunts, nieces, and nephews, as well as Anthony and his son, spent a beautiful Sunday morning in my mother's kitchen, baking traditional Italian cookies in preparation for the holiday. The episode has been among our listeners' favorites thus far, and Anthony and I feel this is because it strikes a deep chord in their hearts, reminding them of their own families, the way their families once were, or the way they would like their families to be. It is an episode bursting with the true essence of what it means to be Italian American.
A very important aspect of our show is the "Storytelling Segment" included at the end of each episode. This is where we air the recorded stories of our family members, telling about Italy or about being Italian American. It is also a place where we invite our listeners to share their own stories. Everyone, including readers of La Gazetta, is invited to visit our website, italianamericanpodcast.com. Click the "Tell Your Story" button on the right-hand side of the page, and record a memory, a funny story, a sad story, or any story that captures the Italian American experience. All recorded stories will be considered for inclusion in our "Storytelling Segment." We do this because we know that stories, and the sharing of those stories, are what keep a culture alive, connected, and conscious of where it has been. Only this way can we know where we come from, and only this way will our descendants, in turn, know from where they come.
Anthony and I truly seek to create a large, expansive community of Italian Americans, joined under the banner of honoring our heritage, what it has given us, and how it contributes to who we are as individuals.
You can subscribe to our podcast at http://bit.ly/TIAPpodcast and also join our mailing list. We'll let you know each time we publish a new episode. Dai nostri cuori a vostri. From our hearts to yours.