About the Book



A Novel
January 1998
Trade Paperback · 464 Pages
$18.95 U.S. · $23.00 CAN
ISBN 9781558612051
The Feminist Press at CUNY


Recommended for These Courses


One of the first novels to explore Italian American women's experience and an acknowledged contemporary classic of Italian American literature, Umbertina tells the richly detailed story of four generations of women. The novel follows Umbertina and her descendants from her roots in a Calabrian village through a period of American assimilation, to Umbertina's great-granddaughters' efforts to resolve the dilemma of their Italian American identity. When first published in 1979, the Philadelphia Inquirer called it "an important novel for these times… . Through a dazzling interplay of American and Italian characters in both countries, Helen Barolini delineates the major concerns of all thinking American ethnics." This is no less true today, as this republication restores Umbertina to a reading public newly attuned to the complexities of cultural inheritance and identity.

"An ambitious saga which spans the history and probes some of the tensions of the Italian American … . panoramic, descriptive, and solidly crafted."—Publisher's Weekly

For course use in: ethnic literature, ethnic studies, gender studies, Italian American literature, literature of immigration, 20th-century U.S. literature

Helen Barolini's other works include the novel Love in the Middle Ages and Chiaroscuro: Essays of Identity. She conceived and edited the volume The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian-American Women, winner of an American Book Award and a Susan Koppelman Award of the American Culture Association.