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There are two fears that have guided this approach. One is the fear of the mafiosi, which is what keeps the gangsters alive and well; the other is the fear of being Italian American that keeps ignorance alive.
Not knowing their own past has led Italian Americans to combat fictional representations the way Don Quixote went after windmills. Only though knowledge of self and of Italian American cultural history can Italian Americans successfully develop a culture that both defeats and transcends the mafia stigma that has stained their public image.
Fred Gardaphe is Distinguished Professor of English and Italian Studies, Queens College, City University of New York. His books include Italian Signs, American Streets: The Evolution of Italian American Narrative, Dagoes Read: Tradition and the Italian American Writer, Moustache Pete is Dead!, Leaving Little Italy, and From Wiseguys to Wise Men: The Gangster and Italian American Masculinities