The vibrant cast of characters features saints such as Mother Frances X. Cabrini, who stood up to the Irish American archbishop of New York when he tried to send her back to Italy, and sinners like Al Capone, who left his Irish wife home the night he shot it out with Brooklyn s Irish mob. The book also highlights the torrid love affair between radical labor organizers Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Carlo Tresca; the alliance between Italian American gangster Paul Kelly and Tammany s Big Tim Sullivan; heroic detective Joseph Petrosino s struggle to be accepted in the Irish-run NYPD; and the competition between Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to become the country s top male vocalist.
In this engaging history of the Irish and Italians, veteran New York City journalist and professor Paul Moses offers a classic American story of competition, cooperation, and resilience. At a time of renewed fear of immigrants, An Unlikely Union reminds us that Americans are able to absorb tremendous social change and conflict and come out the better for it."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-20
- Reviewer: Staff
The Irish arrived in the U.S. in large numbers first during the 1840s and ’50s. Then, between 1880 and 1920, came the Italians. For decades, their frequently “nasty and intense” competition touched virtually every aspect of Irish and Italian lives in New York: churches, workplaces, the waterfront, the stage, police stations, and union offices. In this enlightening and entertaining history, Pulitzer-winning journalist Moses (The Saint and the Sultan) relates how the two groups “learned to love each other after decades of hostility and ethnic rivalry.” With a cast of saints (Mother Cabrini), sinners (Al Capone), politicians, and ordinary people, Moses offers emblematic, often fascinating tales, including the “Irish-Italian love story” of Elisabeth Gurley Flynn and Carlo Tesca, the “spectacular achievements” of NYPD officer Joseph (Guiseppe) Petrosino, and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby’s relationship. Alongside deep archival digging, Moses tells a personal story (growing up Italian-American, marrying an Irish-American) that’s symbolic in its own way of the “common ground” attained, as he wittily puts it, when “Irish eyes smiled—on Italian food.” Secure as Moses’s focus is, the work also has a more universal application, foreshadowing the often “nasty and intense” experiences of African-Americans and Latinos in those same historically contested arenas. Agent: Steve Hanselman, LevelFiveMedia. (July)