Mother Tongue: An American Life in Italy

Mother Tongue: An American Life in Italy


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A probing and poetic examination of language, food, faith, and family attachment in Italian life through the eyes of an American who moved to Parma with her husband and family.

In the 1980s, the American writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi moved permanently with her Italian husband and her daughter to Parma, a sophisticated city in northern Italy, where he became a professor of biology. Her search for rootedness in the city that was to be her home introduced her to complexities in her identity as she migrated into another language and looked for links beyond the joys of Verdi, Correggio, and Parmesan cheese, which visitors have rightly extolled for centuries. The local resistance to change perceived as individualistic led Wilde-Menozzi to explore the pull and challenge of difference and discover the backbone she needed for artistic freedom.

In Mother Tongue, Wilde-Menozzi offers stories of far-sighted lives, remarkable Parma men and remarkable women, including the Renaissance abbess Giovanna Piacenza, the fighting Donella Rossi Sanvitale, and her own indefatigable mother-in-law. Framed with a new introduction by the author, and a new foreword by Patricia Hampl, this classic on diversity and tolerance, family, faith, and food in Italy and the United States is at once timeless and timely, a “large, beautiful window into the intelligent, literate, reflective life of Italy” (Shirley Hazzard).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780865477780
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 03/17/2020
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,194,544
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi's books include The Other Side of the Tiber and Toscanelli's Ray. Her poetry, essays, and translations have appeared in Granta, The Best Spiritual Writing, Words Without Borders, and Tel Aviv Review. A collection of her essays was published in Italian as L'Oceano e'dentro di noi. Currently she is teaching migrant women who are waiting for their Italian papers.

Table of Contents

Foreword Patricia Hampl xi

Preface to the 2020 Edition xvii

1 Landing 3

2 Zeroes 21

3 Alba 27

4 Butterflies 63

5 The Scream 67

6 Glovanna 77

7 Second Thoughts 105

8 Paper 113

9 Portrait in a Convex Mirror 125

10 Signs of the Women 143

11 Father 157

12 Basement 161

13 The Black Dreams 173

14 Education 177

15 Systems 193

16 The "In" Basket 205

17 Calvin's Chair 211

18 Darkling I Listen 233

19 Eppur Si Muove 245

20 N 251

21 Clare 265

22 James 277

23 Palatina Library 287

24 Getting There 305

25 Finding Language 311

26 Ducks 315

27 Bread 319

28 Place 343

29 Bowl of Fire 363

Bibliography 371

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