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Gerald R. Gems. Sport and the Shaping of Italian American Identity

Gerald R. Gems, Sport and the Shaping of Italian American Identity. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2013.


Gems traces the experience of the Italian immigrant and illustrates the ways in which sports helped Italian Americans adapt to a new culture, assert pride in an ethnic identity, and even achieve social advancement. Employing historical, sociological, and anthropological studies, Gems explores how sports were instrumental in helping notions of identity evolve from the individual to the community, from the racial to the ethnic. In doing so, Sport and the Shaping of Italian American Identity transcends the study of a particular ethnic group to speak to defining values and characteristics of the American ethos.

“Gerald Gems has written a beautiful book. Through painstaking research and an obvious passion for the subject, he traces in much detail and in a highly interesting fashion the participation of Italians in American sport. A must read for anyone desiring to know the complete story of the evolution of sport in this country.”
–David K. Wiggins, author of Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America

“Gems brilliantly contextualizes a still evolving ethnic identity. Iconic Italian American sports figures elicit telling commentary, but so do representative men and women. Specialists and general readers will find the volume accessible, interesting, and significant.”
–William Simons, director, Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture