[UCP Books]: Flavor and Soul: Italian America at Its African American Edge by John Gennari

"Thought-provoking . . .  Gennari explores the intersections between African-American and Italian-American culture. . . . Whether he’s discussing the relationship between Italian-American basketball coaches and black players or the importance of food to both cultures, Gennari shows that despite tensions between them, black and Italian-Americans have much in common and understand one another better than many outsiders realize."
—Publishers Weekly



Flavor and Soul
Italian America at Its African American Edge


Publication date: April 10, 2017 978-0-226-42832-1
International publication date: April 10, 2017 $30.00/£22.50


This book will take you right to the center of familiar clichés about blacks and Italians—Sinatra to Spike Lee, the Sopranos to Shaft—and then upend those very same stereotypes, reversing your assumptions about the two ethnic communities, showing how pop culture (arts, artists, and fans) tell us about how Flavor has become Soul and Soul has gotten its Flavor.

Gennari narrates a fascinating story in his own voice—speaking as an Italian American married to an African American—a voice that allows for great sensuality in evoking the flavors of risotto with gizzards, the melancholy of jazz ballads, the power-punches of Spike Lee movies, and the bodily aesthetics of basketball. Through studies of music and sound, film and media, sports and foodways, Gennari shows how an Afro-Italian sensibility has nourished and vitalized American culture writ large, even as Italian Americans and African Americans have fought each other for urban space, recognition of overlapping histories of suffering and exclusion, and political and personal rispetto.

Thus, Flavor and Soul is a cultural contact zone—a piazza where people express deep feelings of joy and pleasure, wariness and distrust, amity and enmity. And it is only at such cultural edges, Gennari argues, that America can come to truly understand its racial and ethnic dynamics.



John Gennari is associate professor of English and critical race and ethnic studies at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics, also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in South Burlington, Vermont, with his wife and their twin daughters.

Please contact Ashley Pierce at (773) 702-0279 or apierce@uchicago.edu for more information.


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