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Italian American Women Writers: Forging Identities Through a Shared Immigrant Heritage: Home

Notable Female Italian-American Writers of Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry


The books on this page represent collections and anthologies of important works by Italian American women authors, some of which are considered seminal, groundbreaking compilations by writers, scholars, and discoverers / preservers of pieces that might otherwise have fallen out of view.  They feature voices in poetry, essays, short stories, novels, and drama.

Breaking Barriers: Female Italian-American Authors

"Italian-Americans cannot be conveniently generalized; they are differentiated by a multitude of variables, including class, education, political activism, religion, number of generations in this country, their Italian provenance, and the subsequent area of settlement in America. But, by and large, the women have a commonality.  They are women who, with rare exceptions, had never before been authorized to be authors (of themselves, of the word) -- not by their external world, nor again by their internal one." (Helen Barolini)

Italian American female authors have emerged far beyond this earlier time of struggle in being heard, accepted, and published.  As part of NCC's 2018 Italian Heritage Day Festival we celebrate their journey from the breaking of literary barriers to the unifying and energizing influence of the feminist movement, to their recent stunning successes and inevitable branching out into myriad styles.  In some recent works, the immigrant past can seem very remote, but  because of the unique background of a shared immigrant history, as Regina Barreca points out, the writings of Italian American Women always in some way look to the literary pioneers whose works reflect "a life not inherited, but invented." They also worked through and against stereotypes about the literary culture of the Italian American immigrant household.  Fred Gadarphe writes about growing up in a loud, bustling Italian household: "Reading anything beyond newspapers and the mail required escaping from my family ... it betrayed my willingness to enter mainstream American culture."  In her wonderful study "Writing With an Accent: Contemporary Italian American Women Authors, Edvige  Giunta claims that as recently as the 1970's "Italian American authors in general, and Italian American women writers in particular, were virtual unkowns to the academic as well as lay readership." 

The books featured here can be obtained either from our catalog (where indicated), or via interlibrary loan at NCC or by inquiring at your local public library.  Please contact the NCC library for help with the interlibrary loan process available to faculty, staff, and current students.

From Helen Barolini's Umbertina, which Giunta singles out as "one of the first Italian American novels to explore the immigrant experience from a female perspective" to the bestselling novels of Adriana Trigiani and Lisa Scottoline, in addition to anthologies, essays, and poetry, these wonderful titles are available in our libraries and should be enjoyed by all.


Below are some additional suggested titles that can be explored by requesting via interlibrary loan from NCC or inquiring at your local public library. Staff and faculty can contact the library about setting up an interlibrary loan account.


Italian Heritage Day Program

Available at NCC