Echo: Essays on Other Literatures


277 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55071-004-4
DDC C810.9'851





Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas is a professor of English at the University of Toronto.


Italian immigrants to Canada make a journey longer than many another
group, coming as they do from an ancient land that is as warm with
memories and people, as with the sun. Our bare, cold land provides a
living but also may inflict its deprivation on the spirit. In these
essays, Joseph Pivato, working in the same dogged fashion as laborers on
tramways and construction sites, has gone over the ground of recent
Italo-Canadian writing. His work is essentially on the level of primary
survey, setting out the historical landmarks—for instance, the initial
wave of

Italo-Canadian writing in the 1970s, and the development of writers’
associations and entry into the academy in the 1980s.

Pivato points also to some of the particular features of Italian
immigration: its generally peasant origins; its cycle of arrival,
departure, and return; its disruptions and reconstitutions of families;
its dependence on women. These features become the natural subject
matter of the poets and novelists who rise out of the universities to
honor in their work the battered hands and worn faces of their elders,
and also, of course, to separate and distinguish themselves as a new
generation with different problems. Poets such as Mary di Michele and
Pier Giorgio di Cicco have expressed themselves very successfully on
these subjects. And a rising generation of scholars, such as Franca
Iacovetta, are winning attention by giving voices to the inarticulate
generations of uneducated immigrant women who have been a vital part of
Italian-Canadian life. Against their sacrifices—and generational
sacrifice is, of course, a theme—the anxieties of sophisticated
writers about inclusion and perspective may seem selfish, trivial, and
thin. But all writing from the soul involves an act of courage, writers
too are laborers, and Pivato’s essay-surveys are justified in their
focus on literature as an expression of the whole brave effort of
Italian migration to Canada.


Pivato, Joseph., “Echo: Essays on Other Literatures,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 12, 2024,