Grateful Grandson: Editor-in-Chief Miles Ryan Fisher Honors his Heritage through Story

Interview by Mary Kovach, Ph.D.
Photos courtesy of Miles Fisher

Those who read Italy USA Magazine share a passion for Italy. Even more so, there is a greater appreciation for our heritage. Many of our ancestors who left Italy for America sacrificed what they had to establish a better life, and they lived to make our lives better - the lives of future generations. It’s a pleasure to interview Miles Ryan Fisher, the Editor-in-Chief of Italian America, because of his gratitude for his heritage, his humble nature, and his appreciation for his career. He writes and communicates authentic stories from all over the United States with Italian origins; he interviews famous Italian and Italian Americans to share their personal stories. In this interview, Fisher shares his lineage, his admiration for the Italian culture, his enthusiasm for his career, and how his love for his roots will directly impact his future genealogy.

Your family has Italian roots, which has been the basis for so much of your adult life. Can you please share your Italian family origins and some ways that you celebrate them?

When people find out that I’m Italian, they say, “Fisher—that doesn’t sound Italian,” and my response is always the same: “I have a mother!” When I stand next to her, you’d easily see where I get my dark complexion. My mom’s maiden name is Daino, and her mom’s maiden name was Cicchetti. My grandfather’s parents were from Naples—more specifically, Afragola. My grandmother’s parents were from L’Aquila, the capital of the Abruzzo region, and Terracina, a coastal town along the Tyrrhenian Sea between Naples and Rome. They all settled in Ithaca, New York, where my grandparents were born.

My Italian heritage was passed along to me in very natural ways. I was really close with my grandparents, Joseph and Clara. Their Italian background was simply a part of them, a part of who they were and a part of their identity. My grandfather ran a restaurant and hired a lot of Italian immigrants, helping them work their way up—even helping one of them open his own Italian restaurant called Roma’s. When I was in college in Ithaca, that’s always where my grandparents took me to eat whenever we went out for a meal. It was really through experiences like that and the stories and meaning behind them that gave me the deep appreciation for my roots that I have. And of course, growing up with an Italian mother didn’t hurt!

Your grandfather has an amazing story. Can you share it with us?

Ah! You’ve researched me! Before my grandfather took over the restaurant from his dad when he came back from the war, he spent all four years of World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a fighter pilot, flying P-47s through the Himalayas, referred to as “flying the hump.” He flew 73 missions, leading most of them as a captain, and was highly decorated. He was even made an honorary member of the Chinese Air Force! But decorations never mattered to him in the least. What mattered to him was his passion for flying, which was apparent whenever he told stories from his days as a pilot. I always loved listening to his stories, no matter how many times I’d heard them before. I think, in a way, he impressed upon me how much more fulfilling life is when you have a true passion for something. And the only thing I truly wanted to inherit from him was his wings, which he gave me a few years before he died.

Your passion for the Italian culture is contagious. Can you share some of what you love and appreciate about it, as well as how it impacts your life?

Oh there’s so much about Italian culture to love; it’s hard to know where to begin. My first thoughts take me straight to Italy itself. Simply being there, seeing the beauty of the boot, enjoying the pace of life, everything about that is something that I am able to experience relatively easily, simply because of when I was born. Once my great-grandparents came over, going back to Italy wasn’t something any of them did. My grandparents as well, never went back. It wasn’t until my mom went there on her honeymoon that anyone set foot in Italy again. But now, simply because of the time that I’m living in, I get to connect with the country itself—through frequent travel, through use of the internet and ease of communication—in ways that my ancestors never could.

Of course, all of this has impacted my life in the greatest way possible—I met my wife in Italy! Rome, to be exact. I proposed to her nearly two years later at her olive tree in Calabria. If I didn’t have Italian ancestors, who knows if I’d have been in Rome at the right place and at the right time to meet my future wife. So it’s in large part, because of my ancestors, that I was there to begin with. Because of that, our future children and grandchildren (and even great-grandchildren!) will have a direct attachment to Italy. I love the thought of our great-grandchildren one day visiting Evelyn’s olive tree to see where their great-grandfather proposed to their great-grandmother.

Most often, when people think about the Italian culture, they think about the food, the music, the wine, the hospitality (I could go on and on!)... What most resonates with you when you think about our Italian culture and heritage?

Family and home-cooked meals. That’s something that I always had growing up at home, and then whenever I stopped by my grandparents’ house during college. It’s one of those aspects of Italian culture that was naturally ingrained in me from a young age. My mom always made dinner, and I know that some of her favorite times in life were when my voracious friends would come over to eat in high school and when we were home on college breaks.

It’s something that my wife and I carry on to this day. We love to cook, and I don’t mind admitting that we often think that we do it better here at home. We’ve always gravitated to the Mediterranean diet—pasta, fish, cheese, vegetables. I love how simple yet versatile it can be, and how it doesn’t take a terribly involved recipe to create a dish that tastes fantastic.

What does it mean to you to be an Italian American, and do you have any moments in life you know your Italian ancestors would look down and be proud?

Having an appreciation for where you came from is the number one meaning for me. All of the opportunity that those before me didn’t have but who gave their lives in ways that now afford me the opportunities that I have. Always keeping that in mind has such positive effects on me. It makes me work harder. It makes me feel more fortunate and grateful. It helps me take my successes in stride and makes it easier for me to get back on my feet after I fail. I think ultimately, being Italian American means being so proud of those who came before you in a way that enables you to put your own struggles into proper perspective.

As for those who came before me and would look down to be proud, I know that my grandfather was really proud of the work I do as Editor of Italian America magazine. I imagine that my ancestors who weren’t able to ever hold a copy of the magazine would look down and feel similar pride—and maybe some would even be astonished that this could be someone’s livelihood. Now when it comes to my mom, she’s over the moon about each and every issue that comes out! Doing this kind of work that promotes her Italian heritage, if ever I was the perfect son before …

After graduating from Cornell University and thinking about your future, did you ever imaging that you would be the Editor-in-Chief for the Italian America magazine, a magazine with over 30,000 paid subscriptions. What are some of the highlights from your tenure in this role?

I definitely didn’t imagine something like this coming out of undergrad—I was just happy when I got my first job! I was part of a medical screening program that helped construction workers who worked on nuclear weapons facilities. I wrote a lot of feature articles and produced a newsletter that helped spread the word about the program. It was the kind of work that was done out on these facilities, mostly during the Cold War. I think what prepared me for the magazine, just as much as my writing experience, was the interest and appreciation I had for the stories of others. As you can imagine, construction workers working on nuclear weapons facilities had stories of all kinds—fascinating, inspiring, tragic—and I really love the human-to-human contact a story brings you and the ways in which you can appreciate the history of another person whose background is different from yours.

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to what I was able to experience through this work. The variety runs the whole spectrum—I’ve spoken at the U.S. Postal Museum, manned the fried calamari and cooked mussels in white wine sauce at an Italian festival in Maryland, spent on hour on the phone with Rocky Colavito, listened to an emotional talk at a lodge meeting that was given by a Vietnam veteran whom I now call a friend … It’s really endless. But really, the highlight for me will always be any personal connection I make with others through this job. That’s something you’d notice in the way I interview others – I tend to volunteer as much personal information about myself as they do about themselves. For me, it’s that kind of shared experience that I love most about my role with the magazine.

Italian America is a printed magazine distributed quarterly. It's the most in-demand magazine for Italians and Italian Americans in the United States. How do you obtain your material or the content for such a quality magazine?

Many fantastic stories come from freelance writers who submit them. That’s a really important part of the magazine—that contributions come from everywhere. That way, you get a lot of fascinating stories that you’d never know existed. This way, I become a captivated reader like everybody else. I also do a good share of the writing for each issue—both for the individual-themed pages and the feature articles. Because of my position, I’m placed in and around a lot of areas where stories will surface. These stories appear through so many different ways, whether that’s through a book I read, or news that I’m alerted to, or an individual email that clues me in on a new topic. A great story can really come from anywhere. Sometimes it’s the writing that makes it great. Sometimes it’s knowing exactly which slice or slices of an overall story to take. Either way, the magazine is ultimately a place where great stories gather, and every issue is its own adventure.

If someone wants to subscribe to Italian America or follow it on social media, how can he or she go about it?

Since it’s the official publication of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, you can find us easily on and order a subscription for you or somebody you love. We do have a Facebook page – Italian America Magazine. I recommend that in addition to following that page, follow the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Facebook page as well, because you’ll get much more great content that way.

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