"Italians in West Virginia" Book Signing Planned for Nov. 13

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

As part of the Grand Opening Year events at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center on the campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College, a book signing is offered on Sunday, Nov. 13.

Authors Victor A. Basile and Dr. Judy Prozzillo Byers will discuss and sign copies of their new book “Italians in West Virginia” from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Folklife Center. The reception is sponsored by Rocco Muriale of Muriale’s Restaurant. To RSVP for the event, call (304) 367-4403 or (304) 367-4286 by Friday, Nov. 11.

“During our Grand Opening Year for the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, we are striving to offer a variety of events that will bring town and gown to the Center. Mr. Basile and I hope that sales of our book will fund the start of a Folk Cultural Presentation Series that the Folklife Center will develop as part of its programming. The series would include such venues as lectures, workshops, instrumental and vocal concerts, exhibits, demonstrations and displays,” said Byers, who serves as Director of the Folklife Center.

The book, the newest local history in Arcadia Publishing’s Image of America Series, offers a new understanding of how immigrant laborers and their communities shaped the state’s regional history. This volume has more than 200 vintage photographs that have been collected from the West Virginia archival collections and Italian families, illustrating aspects of the immigrant experience. The photographs highlight the regional origin of the Italians, their work, communities, leisure time, ethnicity, family life and religion.

Basile, a native of Clarksburg, has served as the archivist of the American Italian Historical Association since 2004 and has been named Italian Man of the Year by the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival.  On his retirement from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 2001, he was named university librarian emeritus. 

Byers, a native of Fairmont, is Director of the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center and the Abelina Suarez Senior Professor of English and Folklore Studies at FSU.  As a folklorist she has been instrumental in establishing a cultural and student exchange program between the University of Calabria and FSU and is a founding member of the Calabria-West Virginia Italian Heritage Association. She has been named Italian Woman of the Year by the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival.

Also on display will be an exhibition of photographs by Robin Belmear called “Images of Calabria, 2009-2011.

“Robin’s beautiful photography captures the essence of the region of Calabria in southern Italy from where many Italians migrated to form new lives in Central Appalachia of West Virginia,” Byers said.

Born and raised in Harrison County, Robin (Cleghorn) Belmear began taking pictures at the age of 8 when she received a Kodak “Brownie” camera for Christmas. She has been working as a freelance photographer since 1980, shooting weddings and portraits. After attending Fairmont State College in the 1990s, she received a B.A. in Education focusing in the fields of English and Library Science. Currently she is employed at Morgantown High School as a 10th grade English teacher and Media Specialist. In addition, Belmear teaches digital photography classes to adults through Pierpont Community & Technical College and the Monongalia County Technical School. She lives in Morgantown with her husband Michael and is the mother of four children.

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center is dedicated to the identification, preservation and perpetuation of our region’s rich cultural heritage through academic studies; educational programs, festivals and performances; and publications.