- Delta Italians, Vol. II (2013)
- La Befana: The Italian Christmas Legend (2012)
- So Italian: Traditional Recipes with My Art and Travel Notes (2007)
- The Delta Italians: Their Pursuit of “The Better Life” and Their Struggle Against Mosquitoes, Floods, and Prejudice (2002)
Paul V. Canonici was born in 1918 in Shaw, Mississippi. His parents were Italian farm laborers who worked picking cotton in the fields.
Canonici’s mother left Italy with her first husband, Cesare Mancini, settling in on a plantation near Marks, Mississippi. The couple had five children. Cesare and one of the children died shortly after the family arrived on the plantation, leaving his mother and children in a difficult situation.
After three years on the plantation, Canonici’s mother and children moved to Heathmann Plantation near Greenville, Mississippi. Here, she met Canonici’s father, who was also widowed with two children. They quickly married. The couple had two additional children together forming a family of 8 children.
Canonici attended Shaw Public Schools. After high school, he studied with Benedictine fathers to become a Catholic priest. He attended the University of Notre Dame where he earned a master’s in school administration. He attended Mississippi State University where he earned a doctorate in sociology. He taught at St. Joseph High School and was in administration for several of the campuses.
In 1970 to 1983, he served as Superintendent of the Mississippi Catholic Schools. He founded St. Francis of Assisi Parish, where he served as priest.
In 1972, Canonici visited Italy for the first time, allowing him to connect with his relatives.
Canonici’s first novel, The Delta Italians, details the lives of the Italians who were recruited to work the cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta.
His fourth book Delta Italians: Vol. II (published in 2013) is the story of the settlement of early Italian immigrants to the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta, focusing on Sicilian Italians.
His book entitled La Befana is the retelling of an Italian legend about and old woman who brings toys, nuts, and candies to good children on the night of January 6th (the Feast of Epiphany) and brings candy that resembles coal to those who are naughty.
Canonici lives in Madison, Mississippi, and in 2014 is 86 years old.