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The Value of Worthless LivesWriting Italian American Immigrant Autobiographies$
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Ilaria Serra

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823226788

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823226788.001.0001

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The Working-Class Writer

The Working-Class Writer

(p.49) 2 The Working-Class Writer
The Value of Worthless Lives

Ilaria Serra

Fordham University Press

Most of the autobiographies reviewed in this chapter are characterized by how central work is to the immigrant's life. Often a person chose to migrate out of the desire to find or change jobs. Indeed, “work” is an American value that these immigrants have internalized; for most American autobiographies personality alone is not enough to warrant a book. It is the accomplishment, the grand story that provides the impetus to write, and it is the sage advice on how to reproduce such a grand story that provides the reasons for writing it—just look at the extraordinary case of Benjamin Franklin. The immigrant in America identifies with his or her work, as the poet Joseph Tusiani observes in his autobiography. The concept of the self-made man is key in the autobiographies, and will and work are in the forefront, superceding any attention placed on education. The writers brush over the immigrants' childhoods quickly and emphasize their work experience. They shorten the story of their families to emphasize the importance of the self.

Keywords:   autobiography, work, immigrants, accomplishment, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Tusiani, self-made man, will, self

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