In Sicily, 1935 a four-year child walks away from her loving family, her mother, her sister and an infant brother, with a great-aunt for a vacation. She spends the next eight years of her life absent from their lives. It was not an abduction nor was it an adoption. Tina lives in a one-room house in one of the poorest regions of Sicily. She sleeps between a loving aunt and a deranged uncle. She shares her breakfast with goats and chickens while living in the shadow of fascism. The child grows up while WW II ravages the town. Her school is taken over by German soldiers and the things like bread and eggs that were once plentiful, no longer exist. Less than 25 kilometers away her family leads a very different life. After eight years, she returns home to find her childhood interrupted again. This time sickness, warfare and destruction are her enemies. In wartime Europe, childhood does not exist. The child witnesses and experiences many disturbing things from her uncouth, unsanitary living conditions to the failed paratroopers dangling from trees during the allied invasion.
Tina is a survivor. She is able to forgive those who took so much away from her. Her spirit trumps over adversity during the war times within and around her. As she grows older, she struggles to keep the harsh realities of World War II and abandonment at a distance through her sense of humor, imagination and determination.
By the age of 15, her fate is sealed, again, without her permission. To gain passage to America she must accept the role as a war bride. A tyrannical, overbearing, bootlegging aunt in America arranges the match. Tina must live under her roof and her rules until her citizenship is secure.
Tina has earned the right to complain, yet at no point does she play the victim. At times, her nonjudgmental stance is disquieting. Despite circumstances that could be categorized as abusive and undeniably negligent. Tina respects her parent’s decisions and sacrifices herself for the greater good—even when it is not apparent to her.
Despite a raging war, Tina thinks about her family and her friends more than about the horrors of the battle fought across the continents, even when she is a victim of the German soldiers’ mockery and the American soldier’s unusual ways. She is remarkably clever and insightful. The plot and setting are true to life in the period of the past. It will bring the history of war torn Europe to life, providing us a lens upon our collective past that define our unique lives.
Tina triumphs against all odds with an unconditional love for a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fortitude to carve out a successful life on her own terms. Given Away,A Sicilian Upbringing, demonstrates that even in the midst of the most horrendous conditions of war, without trivializing the historical tragedy, perseverance prevails as Tina declares what is rightfully hers.
Targeted Age Group:
This novel shares very strong themes; WWII, the Fascism and the poverty Italians experienced in those years. It offers to the American readers’ pictures of the Italian climate at the time of the war.
I decided to share this strong story with my readers because these were the times my parents grew up in, the shadow of Fascism. My grandfather was a proud card-carrying fascist. Although I didn’t know my grandfather, I know that Mussolini brought great promises and hope to the Italian people. An illusion that was quickly shattered as war devastated the nation. I wrote this story to applaud and remember the men and women of that generation. Also, for young people to understand the sacrifices that were made for the opportunities that are available to them now, in Italy as well as in America.
Although this novel falls into the Historical fiction genre, it is rooted in fact and inspired by true events.
It is also a story of trials, compassion and forgiveness.
What Advice Would You Give Aspiring Writers?
My advice to writers is to read. Read everything. You will learn to write. You will be attracted to styles, words, ideas visuals – then you will create your own words, ideas and styles.
Take little notes, jot down your ideas, and always carry a little pad of paper, if not use a napkin. Collect your ideas in a drawer. When you are ready, the seeds will be available for you grow.
Never give up writing. Write for fun write for free, write to make your point and share your thoughts. There is always someone out there that will connect to you.
Marianna Randazzo, is the proud mother of three adult children, and has been married for over three decades to one wonderful man. She is recognized as an experienced educator; having taught students and teachers for over 30 years in New York City. A prolific writer, Marianna has been featured in popular magazines such as the Staten Island Parent Magazine and Odyssey Science Magazine. In addition, she has won writing contests for InStyle Magazine, among others. In addition to her countless years of public service, Marianna is known for her speech and grant writing, as well as her involvement in numerous professional development, writing and reading organizations and fundraising efforts.
She is a great follower and lover of Italian traditions and culture.
She was raised in Brooklyn and currently resides in Staten Island, New York. She is a “grandmother” to a Cane Corso, an Italian dog.
For many years I heard my mother tell warm, loving stories about her parents and about her life in Sicily. Although she was the oldest of five siblings, her stories never seemed to include her sister Tina who was only thirteen months younger than she was.
When I questioned her about her sister, she simply said, “Tina wasn’t living with us, she was staying with an aunt in another town. Although it seemed strange, I never insisted on knowing why. I could see it was a difficult subject.
As I grew older, I heard my aunt speak about how unhappy she was as a child. “Your mother and I lead very different lives in Sicily,” she would say. I could see that many things about her past tormented her over the years.
When I retired from teaching, I decided to pursue my second love, writing. On Mother’s Day of 2010, I offered to write Tina’s story. I believe I made her the happiest woman that day.
After almost three years of interviews and research, the book was complete.
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