Giuseppina Di Lena
Italian Language and Literature / 20th Century American Literature
B.A., January 2009
Summa cum Laude
Thomas W. Smith Academic Fellowship
Brooklyn College Modern Languages Award
Nan Bauer-Maglin Prize in Literary Studies
Golden Key Honor Society
Giuseppina Di Lena completed her B.A. with courses from Hunter, City, and Brooklyn Colleges under the direction of Professors Paolo Fasoli, Romance Languages, Hunter College and Kathlene McDonald, English, City College.
In her own words…
Every morning, a sentence posted on my refrigerator door welcomes me: “To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.” Written by James Baldwin as a call to action, these words are my mantra as I start another day of my life. I refuse to simply exist because I want to be actively involved in shaping my various roles: mother, worker, friend and student. Baldwin said correctly that commitment equals danger because to be faithful to your ideals, while trying to do your best, often offers no choice than to fight for what you believe. It would be easier to compromise – to not act.
Hope was nowhere in sight the day I was born premature 47 years ago. Weighing just over two pounds, I was not considered worth the trip to a hospital nearby that had incubators. My mother could not read and write. My father never finished fourth grade. On my own, I became a voracious reader. As a little girl I discovered that through books I was free to go places where I could never go, to imagine a better life for my family. Books nurtured me and made me inquisitive when my parents, working so hard to provide food on the table, could not understand that I needed literature to feel alive. I dreamed of going to college but y parents looked at me as if I was asking for the moon. A marriage at a young age, just after I turned 15 years old, was their dream for me. I had a different one the spoke of tenacity, perseverance and hope. Knowledge gave me the courage to rebel against an arranged marriage. I wanted to choose my own path. I had to settle for a vocational high school where literature, history and arts were absent but it was better than nothing.
I started taking the reins of my life in my own hands by moving to Florence. After winning money on an Italian TV show similar to Jeopardy, I came to New York. After my 40th birthday I dusted off my old dream of going to college to show my children and myself that it is never too late to make a dream come true. After 22 years I was the first to go to college from either side of my family. Now I had another dream: becoming a librarian. Books have been my surrogate parents because they fostered my integrity, self-esteem, curiosity, enthusiasm, compassion, and love for life. I believe that knowledge hold the keys to a better world. But the academic journey has not been easy with a demanding full time job and family responsibilities.
After my B.A. in 20th Century American Literature and Italian Language and Literature I will pursue a Master’s in Library Science to become a children’s librarian because I am a living proof that books can improve people’s life. Literature can make us laugh, inspire us, teach us, transform us into better human beings, challenge us, sharpen our intellect and feed our souls. I have already developed an in-depth knowledge of children’s literature thanks to my roles as a mother and chairman of many book fairs in schools. It will be rewarding to serve the children of New York City. Being a librarian is the job I was born for, where my organizational skills, creativity, enthusiasm and good dose of humor fit perfectly. I envision the libraries of tomorrow as a place kids want to visit eagerly like an interactive museum where they are learning, relaxing and having fun. I want to lead as many children as I can into a world where self-esteem, respect, individuality, tolerance and cooperation are nurtured through literacy.