The best books on Sicilian/Italian history and the people

Joseph L. Cacibauda Author Of Not for Self: A Sicilian Life and Death in Marion
By Joseph L. Cacibauda

Who am I?

I grew up in New Orleans around Cajun French and Italians. My father spoke Cajun French, English, and Sicilian. I grew up thinking his Sicilian was Italian mixed with Cajun French. We considered ourselves Italian, never aware that my grandparents, paternal and maternal, emigrated from Sicily and were born just after Sicily became part of Italy (1861). Knowing nothing of Sicily, including the Sicilian spelling of my own surname and my father’s Sicilian first name, I used the computer to contact distant relatives in Sicily, discover records online, and eventually visited Sicily to find actual documents. My research led to my passion and my first book, After Laughing Comes Crying.


I wrote...

Not for Self: A Sicilian Life and Death in Marion

By Joseph L. Cacibauda,

Book cover of Not for Self: A Sicilian Life and Death in Marion

What is my book about?

This is a novel that details the life and death of a Sicilian immigrant, Jake Valenti, who came to the United States and became involved in the social upheavals of the 1920s in Illinois, encountering prohibition, the Ku Klux Klan, corrupt politicians, and law enforcement officers, bootleggers and finally meeting his death in what became known as "bloody Williamson." This is a creative fiction novel based on an actual person. 

The books I picked & why

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Siciliana: Studies on the Sicilian Ethos and Literature

By Gaetano Cipolla,

Book cover of Siciliana: Studies on the Sicilian Ethos and Literature

Why this book?

Dr. Gaetano Cipolla is the retired head of the Foreign Language Department at St. John’s University, New York. He has spent his academic career researching and writing about the Sicilian culture and its people in order to counteract the stereotypical image of Sicilians and Italians as primarily spaghetti eaters and mafia. Dr. Cipolla understands the many dialects of the Sicilian language and, through his writings, has reclaimed the literary greatness of forgotten Sicilian writers by translating their poetry and other works. To overcome the pending extinction of Sicilian, he has written and developed a two-part course that teaches the language. His course is steadily being adopted in a number of universities


A Hidden Sicilian History

By Ettore Grillo,

Book cover of A Hidden Sicilian History

Why this book?

Ettore Grillo is a retired criminal attorney from Enna, Sicily, who spends his time writing and traveling. This is the second edition of his first book. I am drawn to historical fiction and creative fiction writing. They are wonderfully entertaining ways to learn about cultures and history within the story’s setting and plot. Grillo teaches about life in Enna, Sicily including the feasts, the traditions, and the people who are held together by customs while trying to solve a family mystery. 


Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year

By Carlo Levi, Frances Frenaye (translator),

Book cover of Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year

Why this book?

This book does not take place in Sicily however, the plights of the inhabitants of a small southern town in Luncania are the same as those Italians in parts of Sicily where even in the ’60s, many families lived in caves. Carlo Levi, a doctor, painter, and writer is sent to Eboli because of his opposition to Mussolini and Italy’s Fascist government. Levi’s book is about the harsh life of its citizens who continued to live according to the traditions and beliefs of their ancestors, including healing by natural methods and black magic and superstitions.   


Ameri-Sicula: Sicilian Culture in America

By Mark Hehl (editor),

Book cover of Ameri-Sicula: Sicilian Culture in America

Why this book?

Mark Hehl gathered a bunch of Sicilian American writers to contribute pieces about their remembrances of their grandparents, those 1st or 2nd waves of immigrants that came to this country. American readers can relate better to the settings of Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, and New Orleans than to the small Sicilian villages like Bisacquino, Sant’Anna, Chiusa Sclafani, the towns from which many immigrants embarked, and the towns from which these customs were carried into American cities.


A Feast of Narrative: Volume 1

By Tiziano Thomas Dossena (editor), Dominic Anthony Campanile (illustrator),

Book cover of A Feast of Narrative: Volume 1

Why this book?

This is a three-volume anthology of Italian American writers recalling family dinners, holidays, funerals, weddings, Italian customs, and Italian relatives. These volumes depict Italians in their everyday life far removed from any mafioso dramas. Reading these stories helps Italians verify the meanings and pronunciations of Italian words and gestures, those things called “Italian” used long ago but since forgotten with the passing of our elders.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Sicily, Italy, and 20th century?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Sicily, Italy, and 20th century.

Sicily Explore 25 books about Sicily
Italy Explore 197 books about Italy
20th Century Explore 696 books about 20th century

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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