Tag Archives: Italian Australian migrant stories

Article by Il Capoluogo news in Italy…

A lovely surprise to hear of this article in Il Capoluogo that talks about my books. You may read it in Italian via this link or the English-translated version below. Some of the translation from Italian may come across a little differently in English. Interesting to find out how some of my posts are interpreted from afar, especially in Italy. (And in line with the article’s title, I can say that despite earthquakes, pandemics and all else that has kept me from the family house in Fossa, I still love the beauty and history of Fossa, the Aterno Valley and Abruzzo and now that I’ve finished, The Proxy Bride, I’m delving back into this remarkable area of Italy and some unanticipated family trails for my next book.) Many thanks to giornalista, Sergio Venditti for the article.

PERSONAGGI

Zoë Boccabella, the Australian writer in love with Fossa and its Abruzzo.

by Sergio Venditti

In 2022, not only Italy, but also Abruzzo begins to emerge from the “shadow cone” of marginalisation and irrelevance in a society with a strong Anglo-Saxon imprint, such as Australia. In fact, in this magical year a real political-institutional miracle took place with the election as Prime Minister of that great country the Hon. Anthony Albanese, son of an Apulian from Barletta (known only in 2011) and raised by a single mother. An outcome that was not taken for granted, with the victory of Labor, after a decade under conservative leadership, but who wanted to experience change in the post-pandemic. The Albanian government has thirteen ministers, even with a representation of Islamic faith. At his oath, the Prime Minister declared, “I am proud of my government, which reflects Australia in its inclusiveness and diversity”.

Of course, half a century has passed since that film by L. Zampa (“A Girl in Australia” starring C. Cardinale and A. Sordi), which made an era: “Handsome, Honest, Australian Emigrant would marry a respectable countrywoman”. The critic G. Grazzini wrote about the film: “It is not only fun, it evokes the nostalgia for the distant homeland…. where everything is possible “. In fact, in recent decades the Italian community has conquered, with tenacity, a central space in Australian society, as already highlighted in all fields.

This is also the case for an emigrant like Annibale, who arrived in the country from his small village of Fossa in the province of L’Aquila. Childhood memories of him are now inspirational for his granddaughter, Zoë Boccabella, an emerging author. The latter reports her family background in the book: “Mezza Italiana“, featured in a 2019 interview (to Abruzzo Economia): “I grew up as a descendant of Italian immigrants in the 70s and 80s, when having Mediterranean origins it was not as well regarded as it is now”.

In this autobiographical book, Zoë describes her discovery of Abruzzo and her home in Fossa (damaged in the same 2009 earthquake). In these memories, Boccabella touches the central heart of the return to the origins: “The first time I travelled to Abruzzo, where my paternal grandfather comes from, I had the feeling of returning home”.

Thus visiting Calabria itself, from which her grandmother came. And again memory becomes writing: “Walking through villages, hills, woods and abandoned castles, I felt that Abruzzo was a unique land” and … “I was reflecting more and more on my life experience … and on how I felt divided in half, as if I did not entirely belong to either culture”.

A journey to rediscover her origins as Zoë (with her husband Roger), after a childhood in which she was sometimes harassed at school, in Brisbane (in the north-eastern state of Queensland), insulted as a “Wog“, for non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants. “I started writing what would become ‘Mezza Italiana’, while I was sitting at the kitchen table of our family house in Fossa”. Still in the kitchen, this time in Australia, Zoë describes: “pumpkins, which we bought from a farmer, along the road, near Esk”. And after also their symbolic role in the land of the ancestors: “For centuries in Abruzzo pumpkins have remained a significant part of folklore and the agricultural calendar, with late autumn, which was a moment of reconciliation and gratitude at the end of the harvest” … “With the end of the seasons the arrival of the moment of gratitude for those who preceded us, who have now disappeared”.

“The cocce de morte” (heads of the dead), are carved in the pumpkins and inside with a lit candle to illuminate, welcoming the loved ones of the past, to join those present and their homes “. In this, Zoë Boccabella represents a cultured writer (with a degree in Literature and Sociology, with a master’s degree in Philosophy), determined and coherent in her narrative plots.

Now she announces her third book, forthcoming, entitled The Proxy Bride, which takes up the old custom of proxy weddings in a foreign land. An extraordinarily lively novel, “About family, secrets and adversity, imagining marrying someone you’ve never met. How she arrived in Australia on a bridal ship, among many brides by proxy, knowing little of the husbands they had married from afar, most of them coming to find someone, very different from what was described “.

The author recalls the same added value of feminist culture, in “Three Shades of Mimosas“, as a symbol to celebrate the first International Women’s Day, in 1946. A shared appeal also to denounce the Russian invasion, the loss of many paintings by the Ukrainian artist M. Prymachenko (1909-1997), with her symbolic work, A Dove Has Spread Her Wings and Asks for Peace, 1982. Yet a great Russian literature like F. Dostoevsky wrote: “Man loves to build and trace roads, he is peaceful. But where does it come from that you also passionately love destruction and chaos”.

3 Comments

Filed under books + writing

Tying knots and stories…

A post script – there were too many little incidents to include them all in, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, but in relation to the previous post, here is a small, extra story…

Just up from the family house in Wyandra Street, Teneriffe was a Gospel Hall that had Scout meetings on Friday nights. By then, it was the early 1950s and Remo, not yet ten, went along.

To his dismay, when Granny Maddalena found out, she turned up and told him to get home. ‘You’re not going to any more of these meetings, the devil is in there!’ – Perhaps because the Gospel Hall wasn’t Catholic?! – Bewildered, Remo said to her, ‘But we were just learning how to tie knots!’

Nearly thirty years on, the Gospel Hall was still there, next to the land Annibale was hoping to purchase to build the ANFE premises. He made an appointment with the Minister to see if he was willing to sell it. The Minister took a long look at him and said, ‘But I can’t sell this hall to you! The devil is in it!”, and then he winked. He and Annibale had a good laugh, remembering, and then the Minister said, “All right, I’m happy to sell it since the land will be used for another community venture.”

…Dad reminded me of this story just the other day. I didn’t recall ever seeing any photographs with this Gospel Hall in them but then, not long afterward, a curious thing happened. I went back to work looking through old photographs for another book I’m working on, and by chance, out fell a photo Nanna Francesca took in Wyandra Street when they lived there and in the background behind the car is the timber, Gospel Hall. All these years on and I happen to see this for the first time now.

Perhaps I was a bit too sentimental in my previous post, (I can be at the best of times!) It might’ve been because Wyandra Street features so strongly in my family history and now, little remains of how the area once was and another bit will soon vanish. But I accept life keeps going on, change happens and so it is. In the meantime, we connect and live on in our stories and I feel very blessed to be able to share these stories with you and to hear yours in return. Gentile auguri! Zoe xx

PPS Apologies for the picture quality, these photos are almost 70 years old now. (The older boy is a cousin possibly dressed up for an occasion and Dad as a little boy seems to be copying his stance!)

Previous post… A place to meet, share food and stories

Leave a comment

Filed under inspiration + history

Sneak peek… next book

The Proxy Bride is a novel inspired by true stories and set between the 1940s and the 1980s in Italy and Australia. There will be angry spaghetti, mixed grills, mixed tapes, Dean Martin on the 1950s stereogram and plastic on the lounge suite and, above all, hopefully characters you may come to love who band together amid tough times for a new life.

To be released 7 September, 2022…

The plaited chillies hanging in the kitchen are on their way!
Buona settimana!  💛🍝 Zoe x

About The Proxy Bride…

8 Comments

Filed under books + writing

Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Whether this time for you is about faith, new happenings or taking stock with the changing of the seasons, I hope it brings you much happiness.

This article (pictured) appeared in a magazine a few years back in a feature looking at how French, Greek and Italian Easters were celebrated in Australia. I always feel a bit shy having my photo taken for these things and the main part of this photo is the Colomba, or Italian Easter cake in the shape of a dove that sits on the table in front of me. (I recall the photo shoot was weeks before Easter and it was difficult to get hold of one then!)

Colomba cakes are mostly bought and Nanna Francesca used to make a more modest Easter bread with hard-boiled eggs baked into it. This year I broke with tradition and made an ‘Easter lasagne’ for the family. It has been a rainy day so it seemed the thing to cook.

As for the rest of the Easter weekend, after it being very busy so far and with more rain to come, hopefully it will be dolce far niente, ‘the sweetness of doing nothing’. 😉 Tante belle cose! Zoe xx

Brutti ma buoni (ugly but good – hopefully!) 😄

Leave a comment

Filed under kitchen stories