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In this magical and moving first novel, Tina De Rosa draws her reader deep into the world of an Italian-American family and community. Set on the West Side of Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s, Paper Fish is populated not by wiseguys or madonnas, but by hard-working immigrants whose heroism lies in their quiet, sometimes tragic humanity.
At the center of the novel is young Carmolina, who is torn between the bonds of the past and the pull of the future - a need for family and a yearning for independence. As Carmolina's story unfolds, it comes to contain many other narratives: memories and legends from the old country, passed on by her wise and loving grandmother Doria; the courtship tale of her father, an Italian-American policeman with a gentle heart and an artist's soul, and her mother, a lonely Lithuanian-American waitress; and the painful story of Dorina, her beautiful but silent sister.
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First published in a limited edition in 1980 by a small press in Chicago, and long out of print, De Rosa's debut fiction indeed deserves this full-scale republication. Understated, lyrical, and intensely imagistic, De Rosa's tale of Italian ghetto life stands out from other immigrant narratives by virtue of its artistry. Ignore the long and trendy afterword by Edvige Giunta, which buries De Rosa's subtleties in the lingo of multiculturalism and gender studies. If this meditation on time and identity was missed the first time around, it may have been less the victim of prejudice than of its own refinements. De Rosa's shifting interior monologues and her poignant vignettes follow a narrative logic of their own--hardly the stuff of conventional fiction. But a story does emerge from the impressionistic prose. On the West Side of Chicago, in the 1940s, in an ethnic neighborhood now vanished, a young couple raise two girls next door to the husband's mother's home. He's an Italian American policeman married to a Lithuanian. The mother-in-law is a wise old widow whose folksy Catholicism is composed of equal parts superstition and piety, and is never mawkish. The elder daughter, Doriana, is beautiful but apparently autistic, while her sister, Carmolina, an eight-year-old chatterbox and storyteller, is fiercely loyal to her mostly mute sibling. When she overhears the elders discussing Doriana's institutionalization, the distraught Carmolina flees. Her trolley-ride into unknown neighborhoods across town could easily be a ride into oblivion, and she's lost for three days, sending her family into a tailspin of recriminations and fears. Carmolina's distinctly American journey crosses through time as well, looking forward to her father's death, her beloved grandmother's passing, and the loss of an entire neighborhood. And with it, a way of life. A novel like this--so literary yet so full of life--takes time to find a wider audience. Perhaps that time has finally come. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Booklist:
De Rosa writes about Chicago during the stifling summer of 1949. Marco, a young Italian American policeman, is worn down by all the sorrow and horror he confronts on his beat. He takes comfort in Sarah, his Lithuanian American wife, but she absorbs his sorrow the way their tiny apartment absorbs the blue, melancholy smoke of his cigarettes, and is overwhelmed by the perpetually turning wheel of housework and mystified by their two daughters. Doriana is beautiful but inexplicably damaged; Carmolina is frighteningly headstrong. Marco's indomitable mother watches the troubled young family from across the alley and remembers her girlhood in the hills of Italy, a world utterly unlike this gridlike city. Blending lyricism with grittiness, De Rosa envisions time as water in which her delicate characters swim rather helplessly, but not without grace. The effect is unforgettable, so much so that Paper Fish has been resurrected by scholars who discovered it in its small press incarnation 16 years ago. Finally, De Rosa will get the readership she deserves. Donna Seaman
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Book Description The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX1558611452
Book Description The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1558611452
Book Description The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2000. Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111558611452
Book Description The Feminist Press at CUNY. PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 1558611452 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.1587680