This essay offers an analysis of the past 30 years of activity in the Italian-Canadian literary community and examines the role of the AICW (Association of Italian-Canadian Writers) in supporting, disseminating and analyzing that literary production. It profiles the work of three important figures (Pivato, D’Alfonso, Di Cicco) and notes their contributions in establishing this literary ground. It also asserts that women have played an essential role, both in their literary contributions, and in organizational capacities (editing anthologies and proceedings, organizing and promoting literary events and conferences). The essay considers practical issues (developments in technology), challenges, and the vital relationship between creative works and literary criticism in this body of writing.
This paper wishes to explore how Caterina Edwards, an Italian Canadian writer, and Rita Ciresi, an Italian American writer, share a strong, although very different, personal and authorial relation to Italy and the Italian language. I shall be focusing on their similarities rather than differences: they are brought up in North America, their mother tongue is English, they (and their characters) travel from/to Sicily, Venice, Edmonton as well as New Haven, Venice and Rome in a complex chronotopic framework. Old and new myths, mystery and parody are intertwined in their innovative texts. These “new travelers” are part of a new cross-border literary community where Italy plays a significant role as much as their countries of origin, Canada and the US. Is Italy a place to visit, a crime scene, a mythical land, a country of passionate desire, or... just a dream?
The article is based on a 1991-92 research, published in Sole senza Sole (1998). In his book Colangelo retraced the journey and life of 110 Italian women, residing in Toronto. He followed the stages of their lives, successes and difficulties, including those arising from their retirement onwards. For these women the greatest difficulties began just when they could relax with their husbands and enjoy the well deserved retirement. After the death of their spouses these women often lived alone; they did not know how to drive; their children were adults and independent; they did not interact much with their neighbours: they lived in a neighborhood far from shops, supermarkets, churches, etc. This situation created an existential void, isolation and solitude, aggravated by long, unnerving climatic conditions and a silence that it is not golden nor a “blessed solitude!” In this article, Colangelo reflects on the dynamics of the cultural transition of the emigrant-immigrant, who encompasses two different experiences: first as one who leaves his country, and second as one who enters the country in which he or she has decided to settle.
This essay investigates the relationship between the idea of movement and the concept of translation in Licia Canton’s short story “The Motorcycle” and in its Italian translation. The essay looks at translation both as a metaphor of negotiation and mediation that bridges two linguistic and cultural backgrounds and as a process thanks to which a text can effectively circulate in several languages and cultures. Thanks to some excerpts taken from the Italian text, the issue of the accent, that of self-translation and identity are explored through the lens of language, underlining its role in shaping and conveying images and narratives of the migrant.
This paper will explore how the quest for the mother (whether the missing one of Gunn’s novel or the living one of Melfi’s memoir) leads the protagonists of both books to rediscover their mother tongue, that is a language based on communication and community building (Parmod, 2008), or as Kate defines it in Tracing Iris, a body language. It is through this language that both characters are able to challenge the patriarchal concept of motherhood and, in particular, the stereotype of the good versus the bad mother. The quest for the mother in both texts can be defined as a journey through the protagonists’ past that leads them also to problematize the notion of motherland. Significantly, both texts emphasize the idea of resurrection (the resurrection of the self) and their structures seem to mirror the trajectory identified by Podnieks and O’Reilly (2010) as representing the transition from daughter-centric to matrifocal narratives. Such narratives are effective tools in unmasking motherhood not only because they enable mothers to have a voice but also because they represent a different kind of mothering, the mothering of writing (Nayar 2008, p. 140). According to Nayar, textual mothering, by giving birth to stories and narratives, allows motherhood to be reinterpreted as a situation of power and identity (Nayar 2008, p. 140).
Drawing on Paul Moses’ An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York’s Irish and Italians (2015), this article explores the history and literary reflection of multicultural cities. Particularly, Louisa Ermelino’s novel The Sisters Mallone (2002) challenges accepted views of certain urban enclaves as ghettos. This assumption obscures cross-cultural relations and renders superficial the term multicultural as only a mosaic of discrete cultures living together. In this respect, a comparison to official multiculturalism in Canada discusses the complex nature of identity and belonging. A unique case study is Quebec, as is reflected in the position of the trilingual writer and the affiliation to world literature. This article is divided into two parts. Firstly, it analyzes a literary text that looks at US ethnic relations beyond conflict and segregation. The second part, using Italian/Canadian literary history, reflects on Canada as a multicultural country characterized by cultural diversity yet where cultural difference entails unequal power relationships such as regarding migrants and migrant literature.
Drawing upon José Esteban Mufioz’s notion of queer futurity, this article examines the links between memory, food, and sexuality in Monica Meneghetti’s What the Mouth Wants: A Memoir of Food, Love and Belonging. The memoir depicts how embodiment and affect are imprinted in memory and recirculated through narratives of familial loss and queer awakenings. It is through physical and emotional nourishment in every sense of the word that the protagonist remembers a past that is both troubling and seductive, and looks toward a future that is both queer and utopic. I suggest that the author’s queer identity as a bisexual and polyamorous woman is expressed through the sensations of the flesh and through the affects that shape the world around her, and shaped by one eye toward an untenable queer past and one toward a queer utopic future.
Gil Fagiani is a storyteller by nature and by craft, both of which he employs in his essay My Muli-Metamorphoses, a version of which originally appeared in the anthology What Does it Mean to Be White in America (Two Leaf Press). Fagiani traces the dramatic arc of his transformation from a clueless White suburban middle class boy from Connecticut to a left-wing urban revolutionary who co-founded White Lightning, a Bronx-based organization that sought to radicalize white, working-class people. By working side by side with minority ethnic groups as an aide at the Bronx Psychiatric Center; a first marriage to a woman of color; and as the Director of a substance abuse program, Fagiani paves a path that binds his ethnicity with his progressive politics. As a writer, much influenced by Puerto Rican and Black writers, his work reflects the thorny racial separateness that makes trust and understanding distant goals.
Linked by a series of idiomatic expressions used to describe sadness, loss and love, “Cross My Heart” is a lyric essay delving into the world of journaling bad decisions and broken relationships. A deep and private self appears in diaries; intense curiosity makes resisting the off-limit contents of the confidential accounts difficult for the author. In her search for understanding her place in the life, mind and heart of another, unwanted discoveries ensue. Her father, a constant source of emotional strength and support, offers inadequate advice.
In her essay “Shades, Color and Internal Dialogues in White America,” from which the present contribution is taken, Maria Lisella takes a savvy streetwise approach to balancing feminism with political consciousness. By sifting through the nuances and politics of her own body language in what appears to be a moment of imminent danger, she takes the long view by educating herself. She achieves this through listening to others’ individual experiences some of which depict white liberals trapped in a web of well-meaning gestures that can endanger them. From the human stories behind racism and prejudice in the Italian American community, she illustrates that dogmatic formulas do not address all situations; understanding among races can only be achieved through direct interaction with each other.
Liana Cusmano’s interview with Toronto author Michelle Alfano offers reflections on gender identity and living through a child’s transitioning. The act of writing helped Alfano overcome the distress she felt during this difficult time. In her memoir The Unfinished Dollhouse, Michelle Alfano recounts the journey she underwent in accepting and embracing her son’s transgender identity. From tell-tale signs in early childhood and the mental and physical afflictions in the early teen years, to the reactions of family and friends and the final steps in a social and medical transition from female to male, Alfano explores the thoughts and feelings she experienced over the years as her son, River, fought to be his truest self.
Adriana Monti is an Italian-Canadian independent producer, feminist filmmaker and author. She started her career in Italy in the late 1970s by developing a collaborative and experimental style that allowed the women object of her research to take an active and creative role in her films. This interview centers around her two recent documentaries. Family 001 and Family 005 are two shorts exploring the lives of several influential Torontonians and Montrealers of Italian origin through a series of informal interviews with women, men and members of the same family from diverse age groups. This brings a captivating and often touching perspective of the Italian-Canadian immigrant experience. In the course of this interview, Monti explores the deeper issues of identity, integration, acculturation, shifting gender roles, generational lifestyles and career choices. She also talks about the influence/interference of government in people’s lives and in respect to creativity and cultural life.
Liana Cusmano’s interview with poet George Amabile focuses on his prize-winning 2018 collection Martial Music and the art of writing in general. He offers insights on the poetic process, how to research and produce a collection of poems. Amabile’s poetry is inspired by what he has experienced or witnessed. He talks about dealing with war and trauma. He shares his frustration with daily life getting in the way of the creative process. “Life is the subject and the inspirational/ motivational source of our work, but it also sucks up our time and frustrates our ability to give our unstinted attention to our creative efforts,” says George Amabile.