In April 1903, the steamship Republic spills more than two thousand
immigrants onto Ellis Island. Among them are Diamante, age twelve, and Vita,
nine, sent by their poor families in southern Italy to make their way in
America. Amid the chaos and splendor of New York, the misery and criminality
of Little Italy, and the shady tenants of Vita's father's decrepit Prince
Street boarding house, Diamante and Vita struggle to survive, to create a new
life, and to become American. From journeys west in search of work to journeys
back to Italy in search of their roots, to Vita's son's encounter with his
mother's home town while serving as an army captain in World War II, Vita touches
on every aspect of the heartbreaking and inspiring immigrant story.
The award-winning Italian author Melania G. Mazzucco weaves her own family history into a great American novel of the immigrant experience. A sweeping tale of discovery, love, and loss, Vita is a passionate blend of biography and autobiography, of fantasy and fiction.
Translated from Italian by Virginia Jewiss.
My Desert Places
This place is no longer a place, this landscape no longer a landscape. Not a blade of grass remains, no stalk of wheat, no bush, no hedge of prickly pear. The captain looks around for the lemon and orange trees Vita used to talk to him about, but he doesn't see a single tree. Everything is burned. He stumbles in grenade holes, gets entangled in shrubs of barbed wire. This is where the well should bebut the wells are all poisoned now, rotting with the bodies of the Scottish fusiliers killed in the first assault on the hill. Or maybe they were Germans. Or civilians. There is a smell of ash, of petrol, of death. He must be careful because the path is strewn with unexploded bombs, lying right in the middle of the road like big-bellied carcasses. Dozens of empty cartridges, useless rifles. Rusted bazookas, 88-mm stovepipes, long since abandoned and already overgrown with weeds. Dead donkeys blown up like balloons. Clusters of bullets like goat ...
Melania G. Mazzucco was born in Rome in 1966. She earned a degree in Italian literature from La Sapienza University and a degree in cinema from the Experimental Center for Cinematography. In addition to her four novels (of which, only Vita appears to have been translated into English) she has written award-winning works for the cinema, theater, and radio. Originally written in Italian and published in Italy, Vita won the 2003 Strega Prize, Italy's leading literary award. She currently lives in Italy.
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