Growing Up Italian-American: The Memoirs of Ferdinand Visco and The Stories of Two Immigrant Italian Families by Ferdinand J. Visco, MD. 434 pages, $15.95
Review by Stephanie Longo
For an Italian-American, our memories are the backbone of who we are and who we wish to become. In Dr. Ferdinando Visco’s incredibly well-researched “Growing Up Italian-American,” the reader is immediately immersed into the author’s families, the Barattas and the Viscos. What makes this book unique is that, by the time you are done reading it, you will feel that you have been adopted into both families and you will want to call Dr. Visco and invite him to dinner so you could gleam more wisdom from the various branches of his family tree.
Any Italian-American, regardless of where his or her family is from, can appreciate Dr. Visco’s work because it breathes into life the words of our heritage: family, friends, food, camaraderie, honor… the list goes on. Dr. Visco did a particularly good job in placing his family’s voyage to the United States in its proper historical context which, oftentimes, Italian-Americans are not aware of what was actually happening in Italy when their families crossed the Atlantic. This reviewer particularly enjoyed Dr. Visco’s anecdotes of his time as a student in Italy as well as his recollections of his career that has propelled him to be the Chief of Cardiology at Metropolitan Hospital Center in Manhattan. His passion for his heritage is to be commended and his straightforward writing style is to be lauded—there are no instances where the reader asks him- or herself what the writer was trying to say, which can be difficult when writing a memoir.
Readers will also appreciate the inclusion of Dr. Visco’s family’s cherished recipes in this book—this was especially welcomed by this reviewer as it often can happen in families that once the creator of a particular dish has passed on, the dish itself is lost to family lore. Dr. Visco made sure to preserve his family’s most cherished dishes not only for his descendants, but for us all.
Overall, this book shows us all just how connected we as Italian-Americans really are and how universal our stories can be. While Dr. Visco’s stories are unique to his family, their timelessness weaves threads of commonality with all of us, embracing us all further into the folds of our extended Italian-American family.
Bravo, Dr. Visco.