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A book by Michael A. Esposito, published by ARCADIA PUBLISHING
When I picked up this book at first, I was thrilled by the cover, and having read other books belonging to the Image of America series by Arcadia Publishing, I expected the content of the book to be ripe with old and new images of Troy’s Little Italy, with a focus on their comparison. To my surprise, a significant share of the photographs portrayed Italians and Italian Americans carrying out their daily routines of attending school, playing, acting, working, going to war, gathering socially, parading, etc…
At first, I confess, my reaction was not particularly positive. I felt as if I was standing in someone’s living room, gazing through their family’s portraits and memorabilia without ever meeting the hosts. It almost felt as if I was intruding. It only took few pages of reading to realize that it wasn’t so. The “neighborhood” came alive through the images of the people who had lived there and contributed with their presence and actions to its existence per se. The pictures in the book were always rationally tied to each other and Little Italy by a detailed description and, little by little, I found myself absorbed by the “story” that was developing before my eyes. I’s a story mostly of common people who have lived for their families and sometimes died for their country, attended school or sold fresh produce with a stand, but most of all it’s a story of Italians who have proven through their hard work that they were as deserving, if not more, as any other ethnic group and consequently earned their neighbors’ respect and sometimes admiration.
The accounts of everyday’s events, such as the opening or closing of a store, the departure of a soldier to war, the weddings, the graduations, the building of a church or of a school, the meetings of the local associations, allowed me to experience the true components of the environs that make it a true neighborhood and not just a city living area. More significantly so for a neighborhood in which the predominant residents were Italians, whether by birth or by blood, an ethnic group that venerates family values, work and education, making them the most important references in life. Their presence, which yielded the creation of Troy’s Little Italy, for that reason had to be presented and elucidated, through images and words, so that this enclave could be appreciated not only for its architectural or historical characteristics, but also for its social texture.
The pictures and their descriptions, therefore, allowed me to witness the birth and growth of this well-knit community of Troy as well as appreciating the physical development of this characteristic Little Italy, which has deserved three paintings by the famous artist Norman Rockwell. I can safely write that Michael A. Esposito has produced a compelling story of this neighborhood and its book deserves our praise, as well the attention of all the Italian Americans who are interested in discovering their most recent history.