The publications and interviews I’m most proud of in 2021.
My contributions to mafia scholarship focus on the pre-Prohibition scene in America, and the family ties that defined the early Sicilian Mafia. My blog, Mafia Genealogy, reflects my roving interests. Finding endogamy through social network analysis is on quantifying the differences between Mafia families and their unaffiliated neighbors. How is the Mafia organized? compares the organizational models used by leading academics who study the Mafia. Not all the posts are that wonky: This Thing of Ours Is Bananas is about a 1909 extortion ring called The Society of the Banana.
Last year, for the Informer issue on Nick Gentile, I wrote about an early feud among Los Angeles mafiosi which began with the Murder of George Maisano, a fruit dealer. This year, I untangled some more of the roots of the Mafia in Los Angeles in Sam Streva and the San Pedro Gang. Sam Streva was future L.A. Mafia boss Jack Dragna’s mentor and co-conspirator. Both Streva and Dragna have rich family connections to mafiosi from their hometown of Corleone, Sicily. The chain of relations that led each of them to the California coast in 1914 reveal, in each case, a family legacy of Mafia activity.
I was invited onto two genealogy podcasts this year. In February, I spoke with Bob Sorrentino on the Italian Roots and Genealogy podcast about how gratitude motivated my research. My ancestors didn’t imagine my life, but they made it possible.
After seeing this interview, Andrew Martin asked me to appear on his program, The Family Histories Podcast. I talked about the origins of the Five Families, and how my family is connected to Giuseppe Morello. I had more stories from my grandmother to share. But most of all, I was there to reveal my most troubling ancestor: the father about whom my fearless, storytelling grandmother had nothing to say.
Finally, LIVESTRONG.com invited me to write for their platform on the subject of gender-affirming care. My initial vision was a more serious version of my Trans 101 post from this blog, but the research and interviews I conducted to prepare for this led me to the happy conclusions that 1. gender-affirming care is a more just way to provide healthcare to everyone, not only to trans people, and 2. making care more available improves its quality, because practice leads to innovation.