The Daily Regalo

Grotto

On the road to giving a presentation on Lemons into Limoncello at Brookfield Library,  there suddenly appeared a simple, understated treasure to the side of the road. I drove right by it as I searched for a place  to  grab some coffee (cup in photo) before starting, but all the while,  I could not wipe the sign from my mind; the one that read “Grotto”, Our Lady of Lourdes.  Something drew me back to this quiet little haven, where I would pull in, park the car, and follow a short passageway to what seemed like another world. It was a modest corner of peace, cool rock, a streaming  golden sunset, and the holiness of statues that told the story of miracles. I lit a candle, and asked for mine.  As  I left that sacred alcove, I realized with clarity, that I had just been given one of the “daily regali” (daily gifts)  that I wrote about in my book Lemons. Sometimes, all it takes to receive Life’s presents is the ability to notice them, and then follow that inner voice that tells you to let the experience transform you.

I have no doubt that my miracle is on the horizon.  And I will never forget my extraordinary experience in Brookfield.

The Truth About Negative Self-Stereotyping

Ugo Fantozzi, fictional character created by Paolo Villaggio
Ugo Fantozzi, fictional character created by Paolo Villaggio

It is everywhere you look, and even when you are NOT looking it is happening. I am referring to the public insulting of my Italian heritage. The TV shows that portray us as mobsters, or loudmouth numbskulls, the commercials that show us as over-emotional nut cases, the films that show cartoon characters with surnames ending in vowels as underwater Mafiosi, —it has no end.

Media is the most influential teacher, and when people spend a lot of time getting their sense of the world through TV, radio, newspapers and magazines—you can be sure that what they are learning about Italian Americans has nothing to do with the positive contributions they have made to this country in almost every field.  When Media relentlessly portrays negative stereotypes of Italian Americans, two things happen:

·         First, Italian Americans (from young to old) begin to believe and identify with the image portrayed.

·         Second, other people begin to think they know who we are, and act accordingly when we are up for promotion, apply for a job, request a loan, want our children to play with kids of other ethnic backgrounds, or even when we get evaluated by our teachers and professors. You see negative stereotyping creates prejudice and bias.  Here are only a few examples:

1.       “Melinda” got fired from an international company when she told her boss she was offended when he called his Italian colleagues “dagos”.

2.       “Jonathan” felt belittled when he mentioned to a professor that he was on his way to the Italian Club meeting and the professor began to laugh and remarked “What do they do there, flip pizzas?”

3.       Gianluca, an Italian immigrant film maker gets ridiculed when he objects to his co-workers mimicking his accent and adding exaggerated hand gestures.

4.       The father of a seven – year- old boy is beside himself upon his son getting told he could not sleep over his friend’s house, because his friend’s parents said “those people are Sicilian”.

All true, stories, and I could go on. But why do I mention them? Because much of the tolerance for media put-downs that turn into everyday consequences for I-A’s, comes from a portion of the Italian American community itself. No other ethnic or racial group seems to show this degree of disunity and self-abasement. Why  so many Italian Americans think it is cool to be associated with criminality, loud mouthed communication, wild gesticulation, and other undesirable traits was beyond me—until recently when I ran across an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Researchers Latrofa, Pastore, and Cadinu from the Universita’ di Padova examined the tendency of Southern Italians to accept both the positive and negative stereotypes of themselves, that are so prevalent throughout Italy. Certainly there have been several times when in Italy I too, heard Southern Italians (where my family resides by the way) being openly stigmatized by those in the north. This is nothing new. There has been a long time historical social stigma with respect to Southern Italians and many Southerners choose to accept these stereotypes—good OR bad. This is referred to as self-stereotyping.

It comes as no surprise that perceiving prejudice from the “in-group” is negatively correlated to a person’s psychological well-being.  In other words the more you feel you are the target of prejudice, the lower your quality of life  What is surprising, however,  is that self-stereotyping, or increased identification with both the positive AND/OR negative traits assigned to the  ostracized or “out group”, was found to have a positive correlation to well-being.  In other words people embraced even negative stereotypes about themselves because self-stereotyping gives them a stronger sense of belonging to their group.

Italian Americans who love to joke about being “connected” or sub-intelligent, or loud-mouthed, are strongly defensive about their right to hang on to those stereotypes.  When I even innocuously point out the vast achievements that Italians have made in this country I get verbally slammed quite quickly. This usually happens because when the laughter clears after the joke, there might be some vulnerability in the truth that remains.

The tripartite truth is this:

First, many Italian Americans know very little factual information about their heritage. Again, they know what they have been taught by the media, and the media has NOT been our friend. The only way to change public opinion about who we are is to educate others with facts. Education opens minds, but in order to be the teacher, you have to learn and study yourself.

Second, they are afraid to go against the tide and stand up for what they know to be true. What is true is that their ancestors  (at the turn of the century) risked life and limb to come to this country so that they could escape poverty and build lives for their families that were free of starvation, both here and back in their motherland. They don’t deserve to be portrayed as clowns or half-brains.  In fact they were some of the smartest, most hard-working people I have ever known. The way to change public opinion about who we are is to write letters, make phone calls, and educate others with facts when you hear them spewing inaccuracies or defaming who Italian Americans are.

Third, when the laughter clears, you will also figure out, that ascribing to the media negative stereotypes will have a real world negative impact on you and your loved ones. And it will come in the form of the boss that fires you, the job promotion you don’t get, the loan you get turned down for, or the family who doesn’t want your kid to their home for a sleep over because you are of  Sicilian extraction.

Ever the optimist, I still strongly believe each one of us can do our part to restore a more positive and truthful image of our Italian heritage. I want my children and yours to take meaningful pride in who they are, and I want all Italian Americans to feel good about inheriting a legacy of creativity, productivity, the ability to work hard, enjoy life, and be of service to others. That is what my heritage is all about. And yours, too.

Thank You Dear Readers!

Lib2

Book Signing at New Haven Free Public Library

I would like to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude to all of my readers who come to hear my presentations despite the rain, and to those who take the time to leave book reviews on Amazon.com and BN.com    Many of you have told me how my presentations and books have touched your lives and given you hope and courage. That is exactly why I do what I do.  If you have not yet written a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble websites, please do; I would so appreciate it. You might also enjoy visiting my Lemons into Limoncello Face Book page ; or joining my Italian Language and Culture Meet UP Group  , listening to my weekly radio show “The Italian Art of Living Well” on Monday’s @ 7AM, or reading my weekly column in The Italian Tribune.

HERE ARE THE FIRST OF THE REVIEWS FOR:

LEMONS INTO LIMONCELLO: FROM LOSS TO PERSONAL RENAISSANCE WITH THE ZEST OF ITALY (HCI BOOKS)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book for moving past any sort of loss, July 5, 2013
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This review is from: Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (Paperback)

I enjoyed Raeleen Mautner’s book Living La Dolce Vita. In Lemons into Limoncello she continues to bring the wisdom of Italy to those of use not fortunate enough to be born Italian. Although, those Romans got around….I figure there’s a bit of Italian blood in me somewhere.

During the past few years I have had some significant losses, and this beautiful book helps me put them in perspective. More importantly, it gives you the encouragement to truly embrace life and find joy in everyday experiences. Thank you Raeleen for putting these words to paper so they can help your readers find a renewed zest for life.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review of Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy, July 23, 2013
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I simply could not put this book down, and you won’t either! This inspiring book is well organized and written, research-supported and offers a variety of self-help tips designed to enhance one’s emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being following any type of personal loss. The reader gains valuable insights into the author’s own personal tragic loss, subsequent healing process, and offers promise to those who are enduring a similar hardship. This is a must-read for anyone who must overcome a personal loss.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem, July 2, 2013
This review is from: Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (Paperback)

Whether you have suffered a loss or are just stalled in your life do not miss this book. It is one of the most life-affirming texts I have read. From the depths of her humanity the author looks at loss and provides simple, practical actions that take the reader into the strength and creativity of the soul and the goodness of life.
As I followed readily available, and beautifully described, simple things to do – from dance, to song, to cooking, to beauty and creative expression, and much more- I saw how a personal renaissance is in arm’s reach and waiting to be claimed. This book is a gem! It is your life – do not miss it.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an amazing helpful outpouring, June 27, 2013
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This review is from: Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy (Paperback)

This book is so beautifully and subtly written and so Italian to its core that you won’t even know you are getting a full-fledged course in behavioral psychology and more specifically in anti-loss therapy. What better way to get over grief than to use what comes naturally, curatively, to the Italian people, who seem to have figured out on their own how to deal with the inevitability of grieving and cope with and get through it so creatively, so effectively, so humanely. Don’t miss this one. If you don’t need it now, some day you certainly will.

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