The scarcity of published writings by Italian American women in 1979, the year of publication of Helen Barolini s Umbertina, places this novel in a complicated position with regard to issues of literary tradition, genre, and authorship. One of the first Italian American novels to explore the immigrant experience from a female perspective, Umbertina was published at a time in which, with the exception of a few devotees, Italian American authors in general, and Italian American women writers in particular, were virtual unknowns to the academic as well as lay readership. If examined in conjunction with Barolini s The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (1985) and some of the essays reprinted in Chiaroscuro: Essays of Identity (1998), Umbertina’s literary history sheds light on the challenges and conflicts involved in becoming an Italian American woman writer in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
KeywordsLiterary Tradition Literary Person Oppressed People Italian Culture Complicated Position
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