7 reviews

Elizabeth Street
by Laurie Fabiano

Published: 2010-05-04
Paperback : 386 pages
18 members reading this now
21 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 7 of 7 members
Based on true events, Elizabeth Street is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900's, and crosses the ocean to New York's Lower East Side. At the heart of the novel is Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the notorious Black Hand -the precursor to the Mafia. ...
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Based on true events, Elizabeth Street is a multigenerational saga that opens in an Italian village in the 1900's, and crosses the ocean to New York's Lower East Side. At the heart of the novel is Giovanna, whose family is targeted by the notorious Black Hand -the precursor to the Mafia. Elizabeth Street brings to light a period in history when Italian immigrant neighborhoods lived in fear of Black Hand extortion and violence-a reality that defies the romanticized depiction of the Mafia. Here, the author reveals the merciless terror of the Black Hand-and the impact their crimes had on her family. Giovanna is based on Fabiano's great-grandmother, and the book's heroes and villains - such as Lieutenant Petrosino, the crusading cop and "Lupo the Wolf," a cold-blooded criminal - are drawn from real life in this thrilling tale. While set in a dynamic historical context, Elizabeth Street is, above all, the dramatic story of the heroine, Giovanna, and how she triumphed over tragedy.

Editorial Review

Book Description: In Elizabeth Street, Laurie Fabiano tells a remarkable and previously unheard story of the Italian immigrant experience at the start of the 20th century. Culled from her own family history, Fabiano paints an entrancing portrait of Giovanna Costa, who, reeling from personal tragedies, tries to make a new life in a new world. Shot through with the smells and sights of Scilla, Italy, and New York’s burgeoning Little Italy, this intoxicating story follows Giovanna as she finds companionship, celebrates the birth of a baby girl, takes pride in a growing business, and feels a sense of belonging on a family outing to Coney Island.

However, these modest successes are rewarded with the attention of the notorious Black Hand, a gang of brutal extortionists led by Lupo the Wolf. As the stakes grow higher and higher, readers share with Giovanna her desperate struggle to remain outside the fray, and then to fight for--and finally to save--that which is important above all else: family.

Amazon Exclusive: Maria Laurino Reviews Elizabeth Street

Maria Laurino is the author of the memoirs Old World Daughter, New World Mother, a meditation on contemporary feminism, and the national bestseller, Were You Always an Italian?, an exploration of ethnic identity. Laurino's journalism has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and The Nation, and her essays have been widely anthologized. Read her exclusive guest review of Elizabeth Street:

When readers first meet Giovanna Costa, the protagonist of Elizabeth Street, she is a young woman about to get married in the small Italian fishing village of Scilla, situated between the Calabrian coast and Sicily’s Aeolian Islands. The town is home to the ancient story of Scylla, the once beautiful nymph turned mythical monster that devoured sailors trying to navigate the Straits of Messina. Midway through Laurie Fabiano’s page-turning novel, which is based on her own family history, Giovanna has landed in the New World but finds herself lodged between Scylla and Charybdis. She arrives grief stricken in New York after her beloved husband, Nunzio, has been killed on a badly managed construction site in Brooklyn. Eventually she will settle into an arranged second marriage, but her troubles continue to multiply. Giovanna will be forced to combat the nefarious forces of the Black Hand, the precursor to the Italian-American Mafia, which has threatened to tear apart her new family.

Supporting herself in New York first as a midwife, Giovanna teams up with a woman doctor from northern Italy. The two become close friends and the doctor shares medical knowledge that Giovanna will combine with her holistic midwifery skills. But Giovanna’s fate changes after deciding to open a small fruit and vegetable market with her new husband. The store is an easy source of potential revenue for criminals offering "protection services," and soon Giovanna’s family becomes their prey. With the same mix of disciplined study and the pinch of southern Italian mysticism that she applied to midwifery, Giovanna will take on the ruthless organized crime syndicate that has kidnapped her daughter and murdered the police lieutenant assigned to protect the neighborhood.

Mario Puzo once claimed, years after writing The Godfather, that he had based the infamous character of Don Corleone on his mother. Fabiano has created in Elizabeth Street a southern Italian heroine fighting those criminal forces that have long victimized poor and vulnerable immigrants. In this multigenerational, well-researched tale, the reader also learns interesting details of the common struggles facing southern Europeans coming to America--how, for instance, Ellis Island inspectors were instructed to mark northern and southern Italians as two separate races; and how the wages for common laborers in parts of the country were divided into three categories, the highest salary paid to "whites," the middle scale for "coloreds," and the lowest amount to "Italians."

Elizabeth Street is both a fascinating immigrant story and an intimate portrait of how a first-generation American--and the author’s own great-grandmother--outwits one of the most brutal crime organizations of the early 20th century. --Maria Laurino


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

What did bigotry did Italian immigrants face that other European immigrants did not and why?
How are the early 20th century immigrants similar to immigrants of today?
by leilani (see profile) 10/20/11

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

East read
by leilani (see profile) 10/20/11
Elizabeth Street gripped me right away and I had trouble putting it down. The characters are engaging.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Pattie G. (see profile) 12/05/15

  "Best book I have read this year!"by Chris M. (see profile) 10/20/11

Fiction based on the real life story of Italian immigrants from Scilla, Italy to New York city in the early 1900s. A dramatic look at how hard it was for immigrant families to "make it" in their new country.... (read more)

  "You willa lika dis a book.."by kari c. (see profile) 08/04/11

Youa willa lika dis a book..The book club had a big Italian meal and had an enjoyable discussion. Elizabeth Street makes you want to investigate your own past.
It takes place during the tur
... (read more)

  "Elizabeth Street"by Cindy K. (see profile) 07/15/11

Our club really enjoyed this story. There was interesting history in the story line, and about half way through there is an event which will make you want to read right through to the end. Definitely recommend... (read more)

  "Elizabeth Street"by Wendy L. (see profile) 04/15/11

A story of love and struggle blended with the reality of Italian immigration to America. A family saga.

  "Elizabeth Street"by Teresa N. (see profile) 02/03/11

Loved this book. I was able to relate to so much since my grandparents came from Italy through Ellis Island around the same time. It was as if I was reading about my own family. Great characters and... (read more)

  "Elizabeth Street"by Donna S. (see profile) 02/01/11

I loved this book from start to finish. Our club members agreed it was a powerful and inspiring book. The author makes the characters come alive. Beautifully written.

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