Out of Rushmore’s Shadow: The Luigi Del Bianco Story by Lou Del Bianco
Niche Content Press, 2017. 348 pages.
Review by Stephanie Longo.
Think back to your childhood. How many of us have had an experience where someone, perhaps a parent or grandparent, told us a story that then changed the course of our lives?
For Lou Del Bianco, author of Out of Rushmore’s Shadow: The Luigi Del Bianco Story, the most pivotal moment in his childhood came when his grandfather took his eight-year-old hands and lovingly guided them in a caress of one of his famed sculptures. While eight-year-old Lou most likely did not understand the significance of this moment at the time, it came to shape his life’s work as, little by little, his grandfather’s story jumped out of family lore and into, deservedly so, national history.
As Lou got older, he learned that his grandfather was chief carver of Mount Rushmore, the iconic sculpture of four American presidents in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While it was Gutzon Borglum’s masterpiece, Borglum himself admitted that the only person in the world who would be able to breathe life into his vision was none other than Italian immigrant Luigi Del Bianco, who made a name for himself as a stone carver after arrival in the United States.
Two things jump out at the reader while Lou is telling his grandfather’s story– firstly, that this grandson’s love for his grandfather transcends the boundaries of time and place, as the elder Del Bianco died when Lou was still quite young. Secondly, that history is truly recorded by those with power. At the time of Rushmore’s carving, Italian Americans were still figuratively carving their own niche in American culture. It wasn’t “correct” that this icon of American history should be carved by someone who wasn’t even born in the country and who was part of what was still deemed a class of “lesser” Americans. Lou Del Bianco, through his love for his grandfather and his desire to right a horrible wrong in American history, made sure that Luigi Del Bianco took his rightful place on top of that mountain. The reader of this book will be amazed by the bureaucratic nonsense that the Del Bianco family had to endure but awed by the pure talent exhibited by Luigi Del Bianco– evinced in Lou’s story of how his grandfather so deftly repaired one of the busts that it looked like nothing had even happened, all while hanging from a harness well above street level! Readers will also enjoy the antics of the book’s breakout supporting character of Uncle Caesar, who provided several laughs and many “attaboys” while reading.
At its essence, this book is about Luigi Del Bianco and his contributions to Mount Rushmore, but it can be said that as Italian Americans, we all have a little bit of Luigi in each one of us. Who among us hasn’t been discriminated against because of the vowel at the end of his or her last name? Who among us hasn’t gotten fair credit because of his or her ethnicity? Luigi Del Bianco is an inspiration to each one of us as Italian Americans because he did what all of us need to do when faced with adversity– he came, did his job and let his work do the talking. Luigi’s family is also an inspiration to us all because Lou, Caesar and the rest of the clan prove that an Italian American family will always step forward to right a wrong done to one of its own.
This book is highly recommended to anyone interested in the overall Italian American experience, as well as to students of both American history and art history, due to the extremely interesting explanations of how Rushmore was carved.
Lou Del Bianco is still lovingly caressing his grandfather’s sculptures, except this time, he is making sure we all take notice of how incredible they really are.