Flavor And Soul: Italian America At Its African American Edge

Hardcover | March 8, 2017

byJohn Gennari

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In the United States, African American and Italian cultures have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. From as early as nineteenth-century African American opera star Thomas Bowers—“The Colored Mario”—all the way to hip-hop entrepreneur Puff Daddy dubbing himself “the Black Sinatra,” the affinity between black and Italian cultures runs deep and wide. Once you start looking, you’ll find these connections everywhere. Sinatra croons bel canto over the limousine swing of the Count Basie band. Snoop Dogg deftly tosses off the line “I’m Lucky Luciano ’bout to sing soprano.” Like the Brooklyn pizzeria and candy store in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever, or the basketball sidelines where Italian American coaches Rick Pitino and John Calipari mix it up with their African American players, black/Italian connections are a thing to behold—and to investigate.

In Flavor and Soul, John Gennari spotlights this affinity, calling it “the edge”—now smooth, sometimes serrated—between Italian American and African American culture. He argues that the edge is a space of mutual emulation and suspicion, a joyous cultural meeting sometimes darkened by violent collision. Through studies of music and sound, film and media, sports and foodways, Gennari shows how an Afro-Italian sensibility has nourished and vitalized American culture writ large, even as Italian Americans and African Americans have fought each other for urban space, recognition of overlapping histories of suffering and exclusion, and political and personal rispetto.

Thus, Flavor and Soul is a cultural contact zone—a piazza where people express deep feelings of joy and pleasure, wariness and distrust, amity and enmity. And it is only at such cultural edges, Gennari argues, that America can come to truly understand its racial and ethnic dynamics.

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From the Publisher

In the United States, African American and Italian cultures have been intertwined for more than a hundred years. From as early as nineteenth-century African American opera star Thomas Bowers—“The Colored Mario”—all the way to hip-hop entrepreneur Puff Daddy dubbing himself “the Black Sinatra,” the affinity between black and Italian cul...

John Gennari is associate professor of English and critical race and ethnic studies at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont with his wife and their twin daughters.

other books by John Gennari

Format:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:March 8, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022642832X

ISBN - 13:9780226428321

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Table of Contents

Introduction: “Who Put the Wop in Doo-Wop?”
1          Top Wop
2          Everybody Eats
3          Spike and His Goombahs
4          Sideline Shtick
5          Tutti
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

In this compelling, original book, Gennari ?stylishly rethinks everything from racial and ?ethnic boundaries to the oeuvres of virtuosi as different as Spike Lee and Rollie Massimino. With wit, compassion, and a sharp eye for what matters most, he manages to take seriously the most sentimental and wishful renditions of identity while also pushing past them in? to edgier, harder-minded territory.”