Italian. American.

Although he savors the ltalian language and culture and has been sought out as often for his knowledge of the Italian immigrants’ experience in America as he has for his knowledge of food, wine, and gardening, Pelle is not a professional Italian. His affection and admiration for an America of abundance, democracy, opportunity, and work is unabashed. It was not until he reached manhood and returned to Italy to research lmmigrant’s Return, however, that he became aware of how thoroughly American he is. On the way back to Seattle, he wrote, “I perceived a truth, clear and compelling as if it had been a revelation: I am not an Italian; I am an American. I issued from my mother’s womb in Italy; but I was born in America.”

He has been courted by the Italian-American Foundation, but he refuses to become associated with it. “What is an ‘Italian-American’ anyway?” he said one night as we were talking over brandy. “You’re either an Italian or you’re an American. You can’t be both.”

On another occasion, he explained his shunning of the foundation this way: “The foundation’s purpose, they say, is to see that Italians get a square deal. That’s absolutely preposterous. Nobody has gotten a squarer deal than Italian immigrants. They’ve become beautifully assimilated into American life, some of our great jurists are of Italian backgrounds. Now if they were to fund studies at the university level of the Italian civilization in America then I would be for that.”

Read on . . .