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Bridge of Love. A Story of Young Love, Immigration, Family, Ho
Christine Palamidessi. Copyright © 2020 Christine Palamidessi, : : color, 120pp.
Review by Maria Galli Stampino
University of Miami
History with a capital "h" is made up of a variety of stories, tales of events involving individuals and groups that acquire meaning after the fact and, typically, at the hands of professionals who are trained in detecting patterns and connecting incidents from the micro- to the macro-level. Ideology plays a relevant role in history-writing, while the importance of each person recedes in the background, unless he ( or, more rarely, she) is a ruler, politician, general, or other decision-maker.
For this reader, the connection between History and stories was always clear. I grew up in a family where, for example, my maternal grandmother told us of standing in the main square and listening• to the announcement of the armistice on the Italian front, November 4, 1918; my paternal grandfather regaled us with details of being called back to the Army as an artigliere (artilleryman) to protect Milan from air raid bombings in 1943 and '44; my mother recalls refugees from the same shellings as they arrived in my hometown, some 22 miles north of the city; my father describes seeing its buildings on fire in the distance, as the home he grew up in sits on the first hill at the edge of the Alpine chain, and then he waxes nostalgic as he remembers getting chocolate, chewing gum, and cigarettes from US troops in April '45. Small occurrences, to be sure, but important to each individual as well as minuscule parts of history.
If we are to learn anything from 2020, our annus horribilis, we can sense that something momentous is unfolding, but we are not sure what it will mean and how and when it will end. We have witnessed the spreading of an unknown virus; the polarization of our political culture; and the laying bare of historical inequalities that create staggering differences in our daily lives. We intuit that our actions have import and carry consequences, though we are profoundly uncertain of what those will be. Time will tell; history will be written; individual decisions will be valuable, but mostly in the aggregate.
Christine Palamidessi 's volume (indeed, a labor of love) is paradigmatic for 2020, not only because her grandparents "Pia andAngiolino's story began one hundred years ago" ( 111 ), but also because their budding love story was buffeted by events much more vast and largely incomprehensible to them: Prohibition and the 19th Amendment (29) as well as changes in immigration laws in the United States (84); the lack of jobs for veterans of World War I (10) and the subsequent emergence of Fascism (110) in Italy, among others. What they experienced and wrote about in their tender missives, in the somewhat formal mode of the era, was modest in scope, but critical to them: delays in departing for the New World, rising boat passage prices, and a deeply uncertain future together were incidents beyond their control and affecting them acutely. The letters that comprise the largest portion of this volume (34-103) are vivid in their candor and in the vital importance of what they discuss. They give us a glimpse into two human beings and their times. How many questions they raise and yet go unanswered! How exciting is it for us to be able to read them!
Palamidessi is giving us a great gift: if more such documents had been preserved from those who crossed the Atlantic, we might be able to write a different history of that collective experience. Though that may prove impossible, in this volume we have a cluster of missives that connect the micro to the macro, making the latter more complex, personal, and intensely poignant.