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Genealogy (Against the Law)

Friday Letter // 00093
Genealogy (Against the Law)

This is Friday Letters, an AGAINST THE LAW edition.

A little bit of quiet around here the last two weeks: in part, because I traded my newsletter-writing time for some armchair genealogy.

This isn’t really a to-read pile, it’s my DIY mic stand for recording a podcast that should be out soon. (Though half of them at least are for AGAINST THE LAW.)

It’s the ghost of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s Italian anarchist lover/partner that drove the weird genealogy. I just got gripped by the need to figure out when my Italian immigrant family came to the United States.

So now I know the name of the ship that brought my grandfather’s parents to New York, and the day it arrived—a year before Flynn’s comrade-in-arms Carlo Tresca. (Flynn is in the book, at least now. I hope she stays in.)

Since I’ve been building these big set pieces out of the same kinds of archival sources—everything from the weather to what movies were playing, if the women in my book could go to the movies, and for the vast majority of the book, they could—I felt like I should at least turn my methods on myself.

Here’s some of what ran in the Times the day that boat arrived with my great grandparents in 1903:

Not a relation (I have checked)

One last item from the same issue, an advertisement from what was then called The New York Times Saturday Review of Books:

If you are that curious, the Dos Passos book is available at Project Gutenberg—it’s just a detour I can’t afford to make, not only because the author is not that Dos Passos (but he is a close relation). So marking it down here; yes, I can really let something just be in passing.


As of this writing, the book’s playlist is five years old and clocks in at 6 hr 40 min. This is the first song on it, “Shore Leave,” by Tom Waits.


This is Friday Letters, by Melissa Gira Grant (me), back on Fridays again.

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