I was prompted this weekend to pluck The Dream Book off my shelf. It is a collection of writings by Italian-American women. I bought it about 10 years ago after taking a Creative Writing tutorial with a wonderful woman at the University of Michigan.

The essay that serves as an introduction is a wonderful explanation of how the experiences of Italian-Americans, particularly women, have shaped who they are and how it comes through in their art. Much of it stems from their Italian ancesters emigrating to the United States and finding that while it was a wonderful place to start a new life, its Anglo ways made them feel like outsiders.

A sampling of some of its more powerful lines:

Learning gave one ideas, made one different; all the family wanted was cohesion.

Italian American women have had a hard time overcoming inner blocks to creative expression because they were not empowered, as female children, to be independent.

… Being at the heart of things, it is [Italian American women] who, breaking the silence imposed on them by family loyalty, are best suited to make literary use of the material implicit in family struggles. What provides the thematic material is, ironically, the greatest obstacle to the writing.

The book is rich in observations like these. Validating and illuminating for a thinker like myself.