Italian professor’s “Janus” set to hit U.S. bookstores

Kerry Lester

It seems Professor Frank Salvatore, a Villanova Italian professor since 1991, defines the very word humility. He patiently sits in his office without an ounce of egotism or pride regarding his tremendous life. Salvatore merely slides across the desk his Curriculum Vitae – documenting achievements in scholarship, national service, teaching appointments and leadership.

As former president of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, a recipient of one of the distinguished Fulbright Grants, even a three time gold medallist in the Philadelphia Senior Olympics, it is clear that his latest triumph has yielded yet the greatest amount of personal satisfaction.

“Janus: Two Countries, Two Love Stories,” hits United States bookstores in upcoming weeks. Those fluent in Italian, however, might recall “Buick Toro CB” as the tale was originally written for the country of Salvatore’s youth, which he “emigrated from in the aftermath of the Second World War.” The ambiguous title, he explains, “was the license plate in Italy of my wife, Grace.”

“Janus” does not favor one country over the other, but presents young Francesco Salvato (Salvatore himself) as a man with two loves: America and Italy. Salvatore recounts his youth in both personal and historical details, explaining that he “wrote the story for my two children, to leave them a sense of personal history after I am gone.”

The book follows three generations of life in Salvatore’s family. In a broader context, however, this story is about the struggles of Italian immigrants in the United States, bringing to mind the sometimes forgotten details in the history of Italians in post World War II America. The book begins with insight into the Fascist movement, the emotions of Italians as they first lived under Mussolini and next struggled to carve paths for themselves as Italian immigrants. It is clear that the Salvatore’s male protagonists could not have succeeded in a new land without the emotional support of the women in their lives.

With a memoir and numerous awards behind him, what is next on Salvatore’s agenda? His dream is to “finish the project of establishing a film bank,” which he started at the University of Siena in 1988. “The purpose was and is to provide visual aids to teachers of Italian who unlike their colleagues in Spanish, French and German, lack this dimension in their programs.” Possibly, in a few years, Salvatore’s own writings will be added to such a collection. But for now, the vivid pictures he paints in his stories are enough to give us the best of both worlds.