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An Unlikely Union: The love-hate story of New York’s Irish and Italians

Brooklyn BookBeat

April 2, 2015 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Cover courtesy of NYU Press
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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.

They came from the poorest parts of Ireland and Italy, and met as rivals on the sidewalks of New York. In the nineteenth century and for long after, the Irish and Italians fought 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. “An Unlikely Union” unfolds the dramatic story of how two of America’s largest ethnic groups learned to love and laugh with each other in the wake of decades of animosity.

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. Also highlighted are the love affair between radical labor organizers Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Carlo Tresca; Italian-American gangster Paul Kelly’s alliance with Tammany’s “Big Tim” Sullivan; hero detective Joseph Petrosino’s struggle to be accepted in the Irish-run NYPD; and Frank Sinatra’s competition with Bing Crosby to be the country’s top male vocalist.

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In this engaging history of the Irish and Italians, veteran New York City journalist and professor Paul Moses offers an archetypal American story. At a time of renewed fear of immigrants, it demonstrates that Americans are able to absorb tremendous social change and conflict — and come out the better for it.

Paul Moses is a Professor of Journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY and former city editor of Newsday, where he was the lead writer for a team that won the Pulitzer Prize. His book “The Saint and the Sultan” won the 2010 Catholic Press Association award for best history book.

“An Unlikely Union” is available to the public July 7 by NYU Press.

 


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