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Mezza Italiana, by Zoe Boccabella.

September 3, 2012

Mezza Italiana: An enchanting story about love, family, la dolce vita and finding your place in the world, by Zoe Boccabella. ABC Books (2011), Kindle Edition, 255 pages.

An enjoyable account of how an Italian-Australian woman came to love and respect her Italian heritage.

Zoe Boccabella is Mezza Italiana, or half-Italian, as she titles her book. As a child she felt disgraced by that identity and sought to reject it. Taunted by other children and even teachers, she found nothing to be proud of in her family’s Italian rituals and stories. Then when in her twenties, she and her husband-to-be visit the village in the Italian mountains where her grandfather had grown up. She felt she had come home. In the years that followed she learned more of her heritage along her Italian-loving husband. They returned to the village and explored other sites that held significance for the family and for others from Italy.

The stories Boccabella tells about her Italian grandparents are interesting without being deeply emotional. Her grandfather migrated to Australia just before World War II, in time to be imprisoned as a potential enemy alien. Her grandmother had come slightly earlier and her father was also interned. The couple met and married. Moving to Brisbane, their fruit and milk market prospered. Her grandfather became a major figure in the Italian community in Brisbane. As they aged they were able to return each year to his home village in the mountains of central Italy. They cherished the foods and practices of Italy and tried to pass them on to Boccabella. Family was a major value for them.

While writing honestly about her changing attitude toward Italy and things Italian, Boccabella is not excessively introspective or analytical.; We are told that how Australian attitudes toward Italians have improved, but receive few details of the bad old days. Most of all she is excited about what she learns about Italy and eager to share everything from her own sense of ethnicity to the details of traditional Italian weddings and foods. Italy gets more attention than Australia in this book. Sometimes it reads more like a travelogue than an autobiography. That’s OK, because of Boccabella’s ability to share the details of places in Italy that she visits and touching anecdotes of her encounters with Italians.

I recommend Mezza Italianaa to those interested in Italy and Australian Italians and anyone who enjoys a good travelogue.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2012 1:01 pm

    This sounds interesting, thanks for the review. I know very little about Italy, so could be a good read!

  2. September 5, 2012 5:43 pm

    Yes. Interesting and a good comfortable read, but not profound.

  3. September 6, 2012 7:57 am

    Sounds like an interesting read.

  4. September 8, 2012 2:06 pm

    yes. Thanks for stopping by.

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