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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 Spiritual Immigrant

The Spiritual Immigrant

(p.104) 4 The Spiritual Immigrant
The Value of Worthless Lives

Ilaria Serra

Fordham University Press

Of the next five autobiographies, three are of men for whom years of work gave birth to a new man—a man of God, a convert to spiritual faith. Luigi Turco, Constantine Panunzio, and Antonio Arrighi came to America as immigrant boys. They were not satisfied with the material enrichment the new land could bring; instead they looked to intertwine their immigration toward a better life with their continual search for a higher spiritual life. Immigration was not enough for them to change their existence. Education and Americanization are parallel to religious conversion for these workers, who, though raised Catholic, became pastors of the Protestant church, the “American” religion par excellence. They Americanized so deeply that they came to resemble the first Pilgrims, choosing that adopted identity over the strong Catholic heritage of their native Italy. Their autobiographies sprang from their renewed life. Panunzio's and Arrighi's stories are the best known, both being first compelling romances of immigration, and only secondarily spiritual accounts.

Keywords:   autobiographies, man of God, Luigi Turco, Constantine Panunzio, Antonio Arrighi, immigration, education, Americanization, religious conversion

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