Beyond Jersey Shore: “Olive Grrrls Anthology” Is a Realistic Look at Italian-American Women
When most people think of Italian-American women, they think of trashy reality television shows like Jersey Shore or Mob Wives. However, Olive Grrrls Anthology: Italian North American Women and the Search for Identity, which is available on Kindle, allows Italian-American women to let their voices be heard and their opinions be aired.
The topics range from essays on their personal experiences to haunting poetry and discussions about sexism, culture, activism, racism, and much more. The voices of these 20-something women resist the stereotypes that all Italian women living in North America are all brash, idiotic, overly sexual, or dumb materialistic party dolls who idolize Snookie and J-Woww.
Lachrista Greco’s moving personal essay “What Are You” recounts her experience with white culture not being able to quite identify her culture and her ethnicity thanks to her swarthy Mediterranean skin tone. Some have asked if she was from Zimbabwe because she was sitting next to a male friend with a similar complexion or if she was of Hispanic descent. While Greco points out that she’s not offended when people assume she’s non-white, she is irritated by their blatant questions, as it shows off their white privilege in a spectacularly problematic display.
Cassandra Casella’s poem recounts her grandmother’s experience of being ridiculed for not fitting in with the standard white culture at the time. Some of the people mocking her were Italians themselves, but since they had adopted the reigning culture, they felt compelled to ridicule anyone who was a reminder of their “dirty peasant” roots.
For Italian-American women who feel left by the wayside thanks to the negative stereotypes in the media, this anthology is a breath of fresh air. Even if you aren’t female or of Italian-American descent, Olive Grrls is still a fascinating read because it allows readers to see a glimpse into the life and culture struggles of modern Mediterranean women—some of whom may even be their friends, lovers, or neighbors.
Flag image by Elliot Brown.