First-generation FABIO and CHIARA SEREDA live the American Dream in 1941 Little Italy, New York City. They enjoy a thriving business, instilling the value of hard work in their children, MICHELE, GIOANNA, and VITO. Fabio’s ardent loyalty to America and fierce ambition often clash with Chiara’s focus on family and unrealized dreams. Unexpectedly their reckless cousin, GUSTAVO, arrives and moves in, on the run from Fascist Italian authorities. Gustavo develops a strong desire for Chiara and makes advances towards her. Chiara’s growing mutual attraction and increasing domestic frustrations encourage his interest. DOVINA, Chiara’s live-in mother, senses disruption of the moral traditions to the family and plots to do something about it.
Shortly after Gustavo takes farm work in New Jersey, Italy declares war on the United States along with Germany and Japan. Little Italy is in havoc. Fabio signs for Michele, their eldest son, to join the American military without telling Chiara which drives a deeper wedge between them. National suspiciousness immediately spills over to Italians as to where their loyalties lie. The family and friends experience prejudice on the streets of New York.
The Enemy Alien Status Act, mandated across the United States, scrutinizes ethnic groups of the Axis powers. Italians affected by this changed status are embarrassed, fearful, and say nothing. Gustavo and friends are secretly arrested as enemy aliens, denied due process, and forced into American internment camps.
Upon receiving news that Michele was killed in battle overseas, Chiara is outraged. Overcome with grief, she blames his death on Fabio and resents his continued support of America. Fabio, now disillusioned, struggles with his beliefs. Chiara’s anguish causes her to long more for Gustavo. She finds out where he is imprisoned. Gustavo, bitter, angry, and resentful, survives in camp by manipulating officials and hustling prisoners.
When the U.S. government lifts the Enemy Alien Status Act, Gustavo is released from camp, disheartened for a better life in America. The unrequited love between Chiara and Gustavo remains forever unfulfilled. Fabio strives to reestablish the family’s old routine, salvaging what he can with his changed perspective of the future. Dovina maintains her steadfastness in keeping the family together. Vito and Gioanna go on to succeed in life, attempting to fulfill the American Dream of their parents, as they now experience it.
Last updated: Sep. 27, 2011