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Novel Inspiration – Gail Reitano

Novel Inspiration

February 15, 2021

Writing  ITALIAN LOVE CAKE, I felt compelled to recreate the life of an Italian-American woman in the 1930s. Often I imagined my grandmother, but really I drew from the lives of many women, my mother, aunt, and grandmothers. I reflected on my own life as a young girl growing up in an Italian household. Each generation had something to say, and every image seemed to reflect back to ancestors in Italy, to the hopes and aspirations of the immigrant. As I wrote the story of the fictional Marie Genovese in Italian Love Cake, photos I’d looked at a hundred times took on new meaning.

My maternal grandmother loved riding horses, even old plow horses like this one on her father’s New Jersey farm. While writing my novel #ItalianLoveCake, I pictured my grandmother as an Italian woman riding a nag on a farm in Naples.

 

 

 

 

My sisters and I stand on a pier in New York Harbor in the 1960s having just seen our paternal grandmother off to Europe on an ocean liner. I see us as “Italian” children, Ferrante-esque in our best knitted suits and leather shoes.

 

My Aunt Maddy and Uncle Lewis pose outside an airport terminal in the hayday of luxury air travel. They look so glamorous, but are they happy? Seeing them now I am reminded that their marriage was engineered, arranged?–by Aunt Maddy’s mother, the formidable Nana, which seems very old country to me now.

 

Lisa and I (I’m standing) with our cousin Patty by a statue of the Blessed Mother in a kind of a grotto behind our aunt and uncle’s house. Such an overt display of our Catholicism shocks me now. I remember the photo being taken, I was seven at the time. I recall being proud and showing off that we had a shrine to Our Lady.

 

Aunt Maddy is tanned having just returned from spending the winter in Florida. Back up north, she’s again hanging out with us, her nieces. (Author in green.)

 

 

 

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