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Sons of Italy® Book Club

The Sons of Italy® Book Club is dedicated to the fiction and non-fiction works of Italian American writers who focus on Italian American issues, themes and history.

Preference is given to books published by the major publishing houses (Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin Books, etc.) because such titles are widely available through bookstores nationally and on amazon.com.

Three to four titles are chose each quarter for a total of 12 to 16 titles a year. The selections are posted here and published in Italian America® magazine.

We encourage all our chapters around the country to choose one or more of the books each quarter and devote part of their monthly meeting time to discuss it.

How to Order:


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Winter 2016 Selections


THREE WITNESSES / TRE TESTIMONI
Translations by George L. Custodi

Three Witnesses is a collection of World War II accounts (one memoir and two diaries) by three Italian men: a painter, a prisoner, and a peasant.

The first account is a memoir by Livio Orazio Valentini, a radioman for the Italian Army who later became a well-known artist. What makes Valentini’s memoir most unique is the way he manages to find humor in awful situations, no doubt a product of his artistic mind (and reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22).

The second account is a diary by Angelo Custodi, a Lieutenant in the Italian Army (and the translator’s father) who was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent two years in a concentration camp. Starting his diary on Italy’s “Armistice Day” (September 8, 1943), Custodi carries a serious tone as he takes us through daily life at the camp. The most dramatic part of his story, however, comes after his release and what he discovers about his wife.

The third account is a diary by Attilo Cerchecci, a peasant from Orvieto, Italy. He takes us through Italy’s destruction at the hands of the Germans, particularly as the German soldiers grow desperate with the advance of the Allies.

What makes this book truly special is that, because the accounts were originally penned in Italian, there are line-by-line translations from Italian to English. Not only does this offer you an opportunity to read Italian, but it also allows you to see how it aligns with the English language. This is particularly helpful for understanding Italian words that aren’t familiar to you.

Three Witnesses is an engaging way to expand your knowledge of the Italian language while seeing a harsh history unfold through the eyes of those who lived it.

SEASON OF SALT AND HONEY
By Hannah Tunnicliffe

Francesa (Frankie) Caputo has lost her fiancé in a tragic accident—and now she feels stranded and alone. She runs off to a cabin in the woods of Washington State, but that doesn’t stop both sides of her Italian-American family from tracking her down.
 
Frankie’s half-Calabrese, half-Sicilian family push love (and food) upon her, taking on her pain as their own. Her estranged sister, Isabella (Bella), shows up even though Frankie doesn’t want her there. However, Frankie will come to learn that family never goes away. This realization plays a vital role in providing her strength when she comes to discover something that just might be worse than the day she found out her fiancé died.

A sentimental story about love and loss, Season of Salt and Honey illustrates the unique closeness that comes with being part of an Italian-American family and also shows that Italians remain a people who are not always accepted by others. Author Hannah Tunnicliffe laces her story with Italian words and phrases. She also includes many Italian recipes for the meals, desserts, and drinks that Frankie’s family heaps upon her.  

Tunnicliffe’s simple, refreshing use of language makes her novel a book that you will look forward to picking up as if it’s a glass of chilled limoncello on a warm summer day.

Sample Passage:

He didn’t get it. And I couldn’t explain that without him I was a fraction, not a whole. No longer good enough by myself. My family wanted to see him and hug him and know all about him. They wanted to ask about his work and slap his shoulders and make him eat more than he was comfortable eating. He was one of us now. They wanted to be in his life like they were in mine—pushing in, interfering, loving, scolding, soothing.

 

Reviewed by Miles Ryan Fisher