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In 52 bite-size stories, the book tells the story of Desolina and Antonio Vescovi, two immigrants from peasant villages where life hadn't changed for 200 years. But this isn't the usual immigrant-made-good tale.
When they came to the United States, my grandparents passed through a time tunnel. Gone were oxen and plows; the annual excitement of the slaughtered pig; polenta for breakfast, lunch, and supper; and a house heated both by wood and the animal stalls below. In modern America, Tony and Desolina found themselves puzzled by banking, supermarkets, college degrees, answering machines, and the nuclear family. They paid hospital bills in cash, thought telephones were for emergencies and tipped everyone 25 cents. Their perceptions of modern life were hilarious and bittersweet. These stories—collected in the years I knew them—are universal. You don't have to be Italian to relish them.