Steven J. Belluscio discusses and reads from The Grand Gennaro by Garibaldi M. Lapolla (Rutgers University Press, 2009)

First published in 1935, The Grand Gennaro is considered a cornerstone of early Italian-American fiction. It now appears newly edited and with an introduction by Steven J. Belluscio (Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY). The protagonist, Gennaro Accuci, is an illiterate Calabrian who owes money to his church and mayor. He leaves his Italian town for the streets of New York, where he steals money from a fellow immigrant who has helped him settle into his new environment. Gennaro transitions from a ragpicker into a big-time entrepreneur, soon becoming a tyrant in his local Italian-American community. While this cunning character “makes America,” his story raises the question: How does one become an “American?”