North America


Masterfully arranged by the editor, the
articles in this book comprise a sterling
collection of Italian American folklore
research. The organization of the work
provides seamless transitions from essays
on foodways to material culture, cultural
landscape to explicit art forms, and largescale
ceremonial events to religious belief,
all situated in diverse locales from New York
to California.


We have been singing his songs for more than 150 years—“Camptown Races,” “Oh! Susanna,”and “Old Folks at Home,” the one we called “Swanee”—with not much thought about who created them, for they seem to have sprung into life spontaneously, like folk songs. Those of us who thought we knew a thing or two about Stephen Collins Foster (1826–64) regarded him as a beautiful dreamer, an untutored country boy with a lucky gift for melody, an unworldy songster who permitted publishers to pirate his songs and others to take credit for their composition, a spendthrift alcoholic who died with thirty-eight cents to his name, a racist or at least a highly effective publicist for the South’s peculiar institution. All of these elements of the folk tradition prove upon examination to possess elements of truth without being true, and thus leave us no better prepared
to understand Foster’s life as an artist.

Good Reads:

Reviews of The Last Slave Ship: The True Story of How Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning, by Ben Raines and Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” by Zora Neale Hurston; and All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles

The Poetry of Everyday Life

Fred was once described as “a master jeweler in the timeless language of the pitch.” He was fond of stating the pitchman’s credo: “Never, never use one word when four will suffice.” The medicine shows were always presented “free, gratis, and for nothing.” A sucker for alliteration, he presented “glittering galaxies of gorgeously gowned girls” and featured, among others, “Tillie Tashman, that teasing, tantalizing, tormenting, tempestuous, tall, tan torsotwister from Texas.” I certainly consider him one of the most inspiring, incandescent, irreplaceable, inventive, and absolutely inimitable (as Fred might say) collaborators in my life.

Craft Revisited

Today’s Western economic structure, based on technology and services, is radically different from the one that existed before industrialization and has resulted in many of the economic crises that face us in the early 21st century. The control of goods has been concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations, rather than distributed throughout the community of small, independent businesses. The production of goods by corporate manufacturing, through modern machinery and technology, has displaced the labor force, separated the mind from the production process, depersonalized and devalued the act of manual skill, and enslaved us to a system of forced consumption. The consequences of these manufacturing practices have had profound effects on us and on our communities.

Drawing the Line

Throughout history humans have responded
to a profound need to translate the experience of life into marks, signs, and
symbols onto an infinitely varied number
surfaces, using an equally varied number
of tools and materials, ranging from compressed
charcoal on a cave wall to a rod
of gold on specially coated parchment.
The medium of drawing has chronicled
the history of humankind—a rich and varied tapestry comprised of countless
interwoven threads, each one bearing the
mark of an individual in relation to a series
of larger wholes. For the novice, the
act of drawing can prove irresistible: give
someone a pencil and a sheet of blank paper,
and they will likely leave their “mark.”
For the accomplished draftsman, drawing provides the satisfying experience not only
of exercising a well-honed skill, but also of
giving eloquent form to a vision.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This article examines the Dr. Suess story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” in its use of secular Christmas symbols and reasons that that is the reason for its popularity as a story told during the Christmas season.