With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community


126 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-020-3
DDC 971.23'3800451




Reviewed by Nora D.S. Robins

Nora D.S. Robins is liaison librarian in the University of Calgary


Although Italians began arriving in Canada before the end of the 19th
century, it was not until the end of World War II that Canada became a
primary destination for Italian immigrants. At the end of the war, Italy
was a country in a state of political and economic chaos, deeply divided
between the industrial north and the largely rural south. Matters
improved very little in the 1950s and 1960s. Consequently, southern
Italians viewed emigration overseas as the best solution to their
economic problems. At the same time, the expansion of Canada’s labor
market gave Italy the opportunity to act as a leading supplier of
unskilled and semiskilled labor.

Although most of the immigrants settled in Toronto and Montreal, a
small number traveled to Calgary. The majority were southern Italians of
peasant and working-class origins. They faced prejudice, culture shock,
and a hostile environment, but they persevered for the sake of a better
life for their children.

Antonella Fanella has written a detailed and personal account of the
Italian immigrant experience in Calgary. She was born in Milan and
immigrated to Calgary with her family in 1968. She began her research
into the history of Calgary’s Italian community while working on the
Peoples of Southern Alberta Oral History Project, a joint venture of the
University of Calgary and the Glenbow Museum. She continued her work as
a graduate student in history, and this book is the result.

Research was based on 48 in-depth interviews with first-generation
immigrants, and on historical sources such as government and archival
documents. The interviews were “designed to document the lives of the
immigrants and to elicit their attitudes, opinions and perceptions.”
The author has done an excellent job of integrating the text with the
interviews. She has written an informative, readable history of interest
to a wide audience. References, a bibliography, an index, and
black-and-white photographs enhance the text.


Fanella, Antonella., “With Heart and Soul: Calgary's Italian Community,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8745.