Boston is home to many Italians. Either the new arrivals, young skilled professionals or students born in Italy and just recently landed in Massachusetts, and the Americans of Italian heritage, get their information about that area by a wonderful magazine, called "Bostoniano".
Now the founder and editor of the magazine, Nicola Orichuia, is launching another very important project: "I AM Books - The First Italian American Bookstore in the Country". We the Italians would like all our readers to take a look and donate to help funding it, hoping it will be just the first of a series of Italian American bookstores all over the US.
Nicola, you are the founder and editor of "Bostoniano". Please tell us something more about this
Nowadays, Bostoniano is a monthly print magazine distributed all across the Boston area. But it actually started as a website in Jan. 2011, after having moved to Boston several months before. I wasn't very familiar with the city, but I had a sense that there was a lot of positive energy coming from the Italian community. Online, though, this energy wasn't represented. So I went ahead and created bostoniano.info one cold winter night of 2011.
Being a journalist by trade, I really wanted to offer what I thought people were looking for: news and events. That's what the website focused on. But in mid-2012, I realized we could take the experience one step further. After getting to know the Italian and Italian American communities, I felt there was a need for something more tangible than a website. There were many people being left out of the conversation. That's when I decided to launch Bostoniano, Boston's Italian American Voice. The magazine was to be a window onto Italian culture, as well as offer a platform to showcase the (young) history and culture of Italian America.
Back then, some people thought I was crazy to launch a print product at a time when newspapers were suffering all across the country. But by reaching out to businesses that understood our mission and our goal, we were lucky enough to collect enough funds to launch in Dec. 2012 (three days before Christmas, to be exact!).
Almost three entire years have gone by since the launch and the success we have had demonstrates that the magazine is treasured by Italians, Italian Americans and anyone interested in Italian culture.
You recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to open in Boston's Little Italy, the North End, "I AM Books - The First Italian American Bookstore in the Country". This is a fantastic project, please tell us more and how our readers can contribute to it
If you look at my personal and professional journey so far, I have been extremely involved with the local Italian and Italian American communities. This is in part due to my work, but it is also a passion I have developed since becoming a young immigrant myself, when I moved to the United States in 2008, at the age of 26.
Continuing on this path, some months ago I started sensing a new and different energy surrounding anything Italian. Boston is a city that is growing very rapidly at the moment, and there seems to be a lot of money going into construction and restaurants. Mario Batali's Eataly is coming here in early 2016, for example.
The trend is the same in the North End. This neighborhood is also changing, but we are seeing an increasingly stronger presence of Italian restaurants, cafès and pastry shops. When visitors or locals come to the North End today, I think there is a big part of the Italian way of life that is missing. I'm talking about a place that can give a sense of the Italian spirit, of the country's culture.
That is why I am working to open I AM Books, an Italian American bookstore in the North End (www.iambooksboston.com). From what I know, it would be the first of its kind in the country. We're not talking about an Italian bookstore (although we will also be selling books in Italian), but a cultural hub where we can contribute to the conversation on what it means to be Italian American in this day and age.
We'll sell books, of course, but we will also feature many gift items and also some snacks and beverages — all Italian or Italian-inspired. One of the sections I'm most excited about is our Children's section. That's where we will feature books for children, learning material, games and toys for the little ones. Being a parent of a 2-year-old myself, I know how important it is to have access to material that can help develop that connection to Italy in our children from a very young age.
Setting aside the commercial aspect of the business for a moment, the space will also be used to host events, presentations and small concerts. In other words, we want I AM Books to become a little cultural hub, a vibrant center of creativity for our community.
To do all of this we will need all the help possible. We launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (iambooksboston.com for more info) and hope to raise enough funds to open and run the store successfully. So please help us!
Boston and its surroundings have always been home to a big wave of Italian immigrants. Can you please tell our readers something about this?
Massachusetts has the sixth largest Italian American population in the country, the fifth in terms of percentage. I wasn't aware of these numbers before coming to Boston, but it quickly became apparent how large the community was. There are several dozen organizations promoting Italian language and culture, and the Italian Consulate General here has been doing a great job making sure the channels of communication stay open.
In general, I would say the largest communities of immigrants hail from Campania, Sicily, Calabria and Abruzzo. But there are pockets from other regions, like Lazio, in places such as Newton.
And what about the Italians like you, born in Italy and only recently moved to Boston?
This is a growing reality in the Boston area. As more companies — especially from the high-tech and pharmaceutical sectors — open offices in the Boston area, more and more professionals come here. This wave of highly specialized immigrants is accompanied by a parallel influx of Italians looking for less specialized jobs in the food or hospitality businesses. Italians in academia are also present in large numbers, given the high number of colleges and universities in the area.
We know that there's a project to open an Italian Cultural Center of Boston. Last September 25 the Italian Consulate organized the annual gala called Italianissimo, to raise funds for it. How is it going on?
It's a project that has many in the community excited. The organization Friends of the Italian Cultural Center of Boston started raising funds through italianissimo! in 2012, and from what I know it is at a good point. Hopefully we can soon have a large and thriving Italian cultural center in Boston. In the meantime, I hope I AM Books can fill that gap, even if at a smaller scale.
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