From Hate to Love – the ‘Unlikely Union’ of Irish and Italians

(Photo provided by Paul Moses via Sheepshead Bites)

(Photo provided by Paul Moses via Sheepshead Bites)

The inspiration for Paul Moses’ new book “An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians” came from the Brooklyn College journalism professor’s own marriage. At one point, such a coupling – he is half Italian and she is of Irish descent – would have been unusual. He says in an interview with Sheepshead Bites’ Alex Ellefson that this realization served as the springboard for researching and uncovering a rivalry between the two groups that was “even more intense than I had realized.”

The warring sides eventually found common ground. Moses, himself a Marine Park resident, focuses on the Irish and Italian immigrant stories that took places in neighborhoods like Sheepshead Bay and Bensonhurst where the two groups co-existed, and the legacies they left behind, especially in southern Brooklyn.

What sets his book apart from the many on these two immigrant groups in the city?

There’s a lot written about the Irish or the Italians. But nobody has really explored their relationship. In fact, I found out there are very few books out there on any relationships between ethnic groups. I think there are other ethnic groups that would be interesting to study too. But I think the Irish and the Italians are the ones that I know the best. So that’s really what this book does. It’s the history of their relationship and how it went from being rather stormy to having two groups that closely identify with each other.

With the majority of Catholic immigrants today coming from Latin America, Ellefson asks Moses if they share any similarities with the Catholic immigrants in his book.

…The different groups are following the same path towards acceptance. And recently, when two police officers were shot in that terrible tragedy, one of them Asian American and the other Latino, a lot of remarks were made that they are not Irish and Italian, they are Latino and Chinese. And it’s a sign of ethnic change in the police department. And indeed, I think that shooting was kind of a landmark in the life of the city because just as Italians once had to struggle to be accepted into the Irish-dominated NYPD, now these groups are making their presence felt in the NYPD and in the city at large.

Moses draws another comparison between the immigrant groups, this one involving the “acceptance within the Catholic Church in New York.” Read more on this in the full interview at Sheepshead Bites, as well as how labor became a major area of contention between the Irish and Italians, and milestones in their path to reconciliation.

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  1. Pingback: ‘An Unlikely Union’- A Window into the History of Irish-Italian Relations in NYC | Features by Ashley

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