“Stephanie Longo knows Lackawanna County well. She is a writer who specializes in the ethnic makeup of Eastern Pennsylvania. She now gives us an extraordinary book that pays special tribute to this specific region in Pennsylvania in Italians of Lackawanna County.
Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers and Protestant Independents 400 years ago. What was once a colony has become a state of people from different countries and of different creeds. Pennsylvania is now more Roman Catholic thanks to the influx of many Italians. Stephanie writes: ‘Lackawanna County’s Italian festival season begins in May with ‘La Corsa dei Ceri,’ or the Race of the Saints, in Jessup and ends in September with a festival in honor of Our Lady of Constantinople in Old Forge. In between these festivals are other observances, processions, and celebrations—all tied to keeping ethnic traditions alive and celebrating those who came from all over Italy to settle in the region.’
Many photographs of Roman Catholic processions are in the book with informative captions to bring greater depth to the celebrations. In the Race of the Saints, we see various teams of men dressed in different colors. This is contained in a chapter focused on religion. Other chapters precede and follow with photographs and well-researched commentary to espouse different aspects of Italian life here such as work, family and culture.
How and why Italians came to this region might be summed up in one word: Coal. Stephanie writes: ‘When the first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Lackawanna County from regions such as Umbria, Campania, Calabria, and Sicily, they had to work a variety of jobs, such as farmers and skilled laborers. However, the chief employer for Italian immigrants arriving in Lackawanna County was the anthracite coal mining industry.’
This books brightly shines upon achievements of the county’s Italians. There is Gino Merli, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. We read about Anthony and Frank Suraci and the Parodi Cigars they founded. We read about the Parise family and the stone monuments they have created over the years. So many more stories of important Italian Americans are included.
Italians of Lackawanna County is a marvelous book that espouses, not only the special attributes of Italians, but, moreover, Americans. Ours is a great country because of our people. We commend Stephanie for adding one more book in the record of America’s greatness.”