Joanna Clapps Herman reads from The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America (SUNY Press, 2011)

“I was born in 1944, but raised in the twelfth century.” With that, Joanna Clapps Herman concisely describes the two worlds she inhabited while growing up as the child of Italian-American immigrants in Waterbury, Connecticut. They were Aviglianese and Tolvese, and everything ‘Merican was inferior. It was a place embedded with values closer to Homer’s Greece than to Anglo-American New England, an intensely hierarchical home with prescribed gender roles. Though it was full of passion, the word “sex” was never uttered. In essays filled with wry humor and affectionate yet probing insights, Herman maps and makes palpable the very particular details of this culture—its shame and pride, its family betrayals and profound loyalties.

“A beautiful and entertaining memoir that deserves a wide audience. Her writing is pungent, fluid, and appealing—a fabulous book.”–Jay Parini