An Unlikely Union
The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians
by Paul Moses
Pub Date 03 Jul 2015
An Unlikely Union tells the dramatic story of how two of America’s largest ethnic groups learned to love and laugh with each other after decades of animosity.
They came from the poorest parts of Ireland and Italy and met as rivals on the sidewalks of New York. Beginning in the nineteenth century, the Irish and Italians clashed in the Catholic Church, on the waterfront, at construction sites, and in the streets. Then they made peace through romance, marrying each other on a large scale in the years after World War II.
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.
"In this lively history of the clashes, compromises, and eventual bonding between two feisty immigrant groups, Moses looks at Irish and Italian expressions of religion, social customs, and family life; access to political power; competition for jobs; and cultural forces that shaped their images... A brisk, well-researched look at a significant part of New York's boisterous past."--Kirkus Reviews
"Enlightening and entertaining...Moses offers emblematic, often fascinating tales, including the 'Irish-Italian love story' of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Carlo Tresca, the 'spectacular achievements' of NYPD officer Joesph (Guiseppe) Petrosino, and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby's relationship."--Publishers Weekly
"Award-winning author and Brooklynite Paul Moses is back with a historic yet dazzling story on the complex relationship between New York's Irish and Italians."--Brooklyn Eagle
"Even the future saint, an Italian, Mother Frances Cabrini, and the Irish Archbishop of New York, Michael Corrigan, argued and couldn't at first get along. The Irish and Italians here in America shared a common faith and hope, but, sometimes charity only came later! What a colorful chronicle of the spice, diversity, yet unity, of the Catholic community, and the magic of America."--Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York
"A wonderful, important book. Paul Moses does a masterful job explaining the complex relationship between two ethnic groups that helped define New York City in the 19th and 20th centuries. With great research and a writer's touch, he tells a story that every New Yorker—and would-be New Yorker—needs to know."--Terry Golway, author of The Irish in America
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