Readers’ Stories

So many readers have shared personal stories in response to my books, particularly after the publication of The Boston Italians, that I felt it would be interesting to build a community of shared experiences.

If you have a story or insight to share here, e-mail me at Please indicate that you are granting permission for your story to be used. If we post it, your story may be edited, but we will stay true to your message. Thanks to all who have submitted these wonderful stories.

From Jeanne Scaduto Belmonte:

“I was told your book The Boston Italians was must reading for everyone whose family came from Italy to Boston…I must agree with that statement. I must say as I read your own family history, you could have inserted my father’s family name for ‘Puleo’ as my grandfather Ignazio Scaduto and his mother, Maria, came over on the SS Italia from Sciacca, Sicily one year earlier [than Calorgero Puleo], landing in November 1905…My grandfather had a pushcart that sold seafood, and then fruit, he and his sons also ran a pushcart selling nuts at the feasts. I have wonderful memories of running through the North End during those feasts…I never knew my grandfather, but my grandmother – also from Sciacca – talked of how beautiful it was with the mountains and the sea…I don’t know why I felt compelled to write to you. I guess that it is my surprise of how intertwined the families of the North End are. I can’t wait to finish the book…”

From Mario Carco:

“Have just finished reading The Boston Italians and I am writing to tell you how much I both enjoyed your book and how much I could identify with it. I was born and brought up in East Boston…The photo on page 149 [of a boy buying a hot dog] could easily have been of me, since I was nine years old in 1937. The only difference would be that my father would not have given me 5 cents to buy a hot dog. We only ate at home in those days. There were no extras at all. I am still trying to adjust to life as it is lived today. I miss the Sunday dinners of old. My two daughters live in the Boston area, perhaps less than an hour away, but Sundays are not what they were. We may get together for a birthday or other special occasion only. Neither shows much interest in their ethnicity, which saddens me…I keep promising myself that I should write about my life so that even after I am gone, they will better understand the experiences of a first-generation Italo-American father…The current generation has not experienced the difficult times of our Depression era and perhaps for that reason there exists the lack of family closeness…I commend you on being so exact in detailing the times of my generation…”

From Peter Merenda:

I have now finished reading this wonderful book, which has brought back so many memories to me and my wife, Rose…My father came from Messina in 1911 at age 16 and my mother from Palermo in 1904 at age 5. They both met in the West End and were married at Sacred Heart Church in the North End in 1920…From as long ago as I remember – probably age 4 – I got to know and love both the North End and the South End. My father used to take me regularly to the North End – and later my wife and children – to festas, pastry shops, butcher shops on Salem Street/Blackstone Street, etc…In 1971, I bought a condo in Palermo where we go once or twice a year and over the years we have met and still enjoy the company of the extended families…Thank you for your excellent book that has brought these vivid memories to me and mine.”

From Mark Pistorino:

I really enjoyed your book, The Boston Italians. My maternal grandparents also emigrated from Sciacca through Ellis Island to the North End. Also, my paternal grandparents emigrated from Sicily and Southern Italy…and all of my wife’s grandparents emigrated from southern Italy…I bought a copy for my 83-year-old father who is currently reading it with great interest. Your accounts of the struggles of the Italians, the discrimination and stereotypes, have been a common theme of my father’s for as long as I can remember. He despised the Mafia stereotype, and every time someone talks about persecutions of other ethnic groups, he chimes in with facts about the Italian persecutions…Thanks to your book I now have a much better understanding of my heritage and have a far better understanding of my parents’ (especially my father’s) behavior over the years. I think you ‘hit the nail on the head’ for me.”

From Bea Scagnelli:

“I loved your book! I can relate to it because I experienced many of the things you wrote about. My parents came to this country in 1920 and I was born in 1925. We left “Little Italy” [in New York] when I was five years of age. I am so proud of you for bringing to life the whole story of what happened to our people…I must tell you about my father. He used to read (self-taught) the New York Times daily at the kitchen table with a dictionary beside him. I wonder what he might have accomplished if he had the same advantages that my sister and I had.