Saturday, December 12, 2009

Italian American New York University Student, Julianna Miller, Writes Her Final Paper About Cultural Blogging.

“Join me as I open up my discussions on the journey of growing up with strong Italian values in America. Then, follow me on my day to day experiences on family, life, travel, culture, career and mainstream media.” Margaret Fontana, television producer and blogger, wrote this message to greet internet surfers and regular readers to her blog “”

“The reasons I created this blog are…because it is who I am.”

Fontana said she created her Italian-American blog because she wanted to have her identity as a first-generation Italian-American talked about in her daily life. She said, “You want to be able to keep a part of your culture preserved and talk to other people who are looking for those same answers on family… ancestors and heritage.”

The most recent post on Fontana’s blog comes from guest blogger and author Patricia Volonkis Davis. She shares the story of her Thanksgiving meal with her “just ‘American’” husband and stepsons. She writes about mashed potatoes getting spattered on the kitchen floor and explains why food has greater meaning in her life because she is Italian-American. She wrote, “If I invite guests to my home and discover that I didn’t make sufficient quantities of every food to feed them all, I’ll drop down dead of mortification, right then.”

I'm a first-generation Italian-American. That slash says it all.” Volonkis Davis wrote, It means that though I was born in the United States, walk American and, for the most part, talk American, my blood corpuscles are suffused with foreign tendencies for which science has yet to find an antidote.

Fontana, whose parents left their family in Calabria, Italy for the suburbs of New York City in the 1960s, said she “struggled with [her] cultural identity growing up.”

“I grew up in a distinctly Italian household... But we wanted to be American and do American things.” Fontana said that her and her three siblings would never have missed a family event to hang out like their friends may have. She also said that living away at college was a big deal to her parents, who had a more conservative mindset, because in Italy most young women are expected to stay close to home.

“This [college] was a big deal for my family because they were immigrants,” Fontana said, “Everything was a learning experience.”

After “really the best four years” in college, Fontana, now 34, works in the television industry and is an Emmy Award Nominated television producer for educational shows on the Discovery Channel. was voted one of the top 100 blogs created by women by the “Daily Reviewer,” a website that sorts and chooses top blogs. Fontana is also working to create an Italian-American television network for the same reasons she created her blog.

“I want to report on mainstream things relating to Italian-Americans, whatever is current and happening today.” On Fontana writes about her personal experiences, family history and news and events in New York City relating to the Italian-American community.

Last week Fontana wrote a blog post about a Sicilian-born singer, Carmen Consoli, who will be performing in New York next month. Below that post is one from guest blogger, comedian Maryann Maisano, who shared the story of her childhood and promoted her comedy tour “Italian Chicks.” Below that is a link to Italian-American pop star, Lady Gaga’s new music video “Bad Romance.”

Fontana wants to “update the cultural discussion of Italian-Americans. The younger generations are of particular interest to her, who she says are more disconnected from their heritage more than any other age group.

Fontana said younger Italian-Americans are identifying with stereotyped versions of their culture or not at all. “They latch onto what mainstream American culture tells you what it means to be an Italian-American. Whether this is through the Olive Garden, movies like ‘The Godfather,’ or stereotypes about the mob and mafia.”

One of her goals is to help the younger generations create their own cultural identity. She said, “I want to let them know that there are these people who happen to be Italian-American that get together, they network and find out what they have in common.”

Fontana is not the only cultural blogger out there.

“Bleeding Espresso” is written by Michelle Fabio, who “finds love, her roots and a coffee addiction in Southern Italy.” Fabio, a freelance writer and attorney, moved to Italy in 2003 to the village of her ancestors, Badolato.

In an older post she wrote about “how a jean jacket and some wind can change your life. Or at least mine.” She told the story a man, the man she later fell in love with, who rallied a group of boys in the village to find her jacket that had been blown away by the wind.

“Cooking With Nonna” is a website centered around a very large part of Italian-American culture. Rossella Rago, 21, hosts a cooking web show with various Italian Nonnas.

Rago’s most recent webisode featured Nonna Maria Nibaldi from Frosolone. Nonna Maria showed Rago how to prepare pasta frittata, a dish from the region of Molise in Southern, Italy. Nonna Maria has been cooking since her mother taught her when she was 12 or 13 years old. Rago was featured in Fontana’s blog this October.

Sara Rosso, author of the blog “Ms. Adventure Italy,” is half Italian-American from California and is living and working, as a technological strategist, in Milan. She originally created her blog as a travel log for her family and friends to follow.

“Living in Italy has definitely taught me that the Italian American culture…is its own,” Rosso said, “while it is not better or worse than Italian culture [it] should have its own recognition.”

Rosso, who considers her self to be an expatriate, said that the majority of her readers are American with a few in Italy because of the expat network.

These bloggers are all helping to achieve what Fontana set out to do when she started her blog; rediscover and share Italian-American culture.

We are all Americansbut for meit is about knowing and embracing a culture…understanding that I am American because my parents made huge sacrifices to be here,” Fontana said, “They gave up their family and homeland for greater living and the American way.”

Written BY: Julianna Miller


Patricia said...

This is a wonderful article on cultural blogging, giving clear insight into an area that is often overlooked in our busy lives, and that is our heritage and what makes us who we are. I am a second generation Italian-American and I have only faded memories of my own Sicilian Nonna. She had a wonderful funny sense of humor,
she was very affectionate, and I remember her cooking most of all! My 82 year old Mother keeps those traditions alive for my children and I know that they have a better understanding of their Italian-American heritage because of the gifts she has given them; her own warmth and sense of humor, her time, love and affection, and always the FOOD! Her secret recipes that she hands down to them not to be given to anyone outside the family! We all cook, being Italian-American the FOOD is central to who we are. I am greatful that my own children have embraced their heritage and hope that we keep passing these gifts on.

Patricia said...

This article is wonderful and gave me a clear and insightful look at cultural blogging. I was not aware that cultural blogging existed, it's a great way to keep up with our heritage in the hectic fast paced lives that we all lead. I am a second generation Italian-American. I only have faded memories of my own Sicilian Nonna! Her funny sense of humor, warmth, and affection,pasteries, and of course all the FOOD that was always a part of all our visits with her! These are my childhood memories. I am very fortunate that my 82 year old mother has passed our italian culture on to my children and they have embraced their heritage. We are lucky she has given them the gift of her own wit and sense of humor, endless love and affection, and most of all the secret recipes that can never be shared outside the family! The FOOD that is central to our lives, holidays, celebrations and family get togethers. La Familia is so important. These are gifts and we need to make sure that they are passed on, and so maybe a cultural blogg is the next generations way to experience this, however we need to keep alive our traditions family to family, nonna to children