Originally published in Voices of NY.

In the back room of the Enigma Bookstore in Astoria, Queens, a poetry reading on March 28 sparked discussions ranging from what it’s like to have a family member who was a political prisoner to how different minorities share similar experiences of discrimination.

And those are just the conversations Gil Fagiani wants people to have at the Ethnic Encounters readings he is organizing.

Fagiani, a member of the Italian American Writers Association, created this bilingual reading series to bring writers from different ethnic groups together to read their work. He’s organized similar readings in Manhattan, but this was the first one he put together in Queens.

The writer also hopes the series will help change the image of Italians as isolationist and antagonistic of other ethnic groups. According to Fagiani, Italian Americans, whose forebears first immigrated to the U.S. long ago, have the potential to engage well with new immigrant groups, especially in New York.