Remembering Sacco and Vanzetti - Tue. 8/23/2022 7PM EST

Catherine Marenghi, Our Good Name

Catherine Marenghi's recently published Our Good Name tells the story of a multigenerational family who migrated from the Northern regions of Italy to settle in Milford, MA. Work is a driving force in the novel from the rice fields in the province of Pavia to the industrial factories of the Northeast—it is both exploitative and dangerous, particularly for the Italian immigrant women who navigate the demands of domestic and wage labor. The close-knit community of Milford figures largely in the narrative and readers are soon introduced to the character of Nicola Sacco—the radical anarchist whose ideals seemingly threaten the livelihood of other hard-working Italians who struggle to fit into mainstream American society. Marenghi portrays an Italian identity in flux as first- and second-generation immigrants respond to the social and cultural changes of the early 20th century. For Sacco, however, the future is clear—workers must organize and strike for better wages, "I will tell you who the real terrorists are: the ones who hold power, in governments, in big business, who round us up and hold us in chains because of our beliefs. … What they are really doing is denying the free speech and free thinking that will allow peaceful change and a better life" (140). Marenghi draws upon court transcripts and other historical documents to weave Sacco's arrest and trial into the story; moreover, the development of his fictional character offers a rare glimpse of a man often overshadowed by Vanzetti's eloquence. The fallout after Sacco's execution highlights the division between Northern and Southern Italian immigrants as well as the rising tension between working-class resistance and assimilation. Our Good Name is a powerful retelling of local and national politics in the search for immigrant worker justice.

~ Michele Fazio