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Paper Fish
     

Paper Fish

by Tina De Rosa, Edvige Giunta (Other)
 

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Set in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s, Paper Fish is populated by hardworking Italian-American immigrants whose heroism lies in their quiet, sometimes tragic humanity. At the center of the novel is young Carmolina, who is torn between the bonds of the past and the pull of the future —a need for home and a yearning for

Overview


Set in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s, Paper Fish is populated by hardworking Italian-American immigrants whose heroism lies in their quiet, sometimes tragic humanity. At the center of the novel is young Carmolina, who is torn between the bonds of the past and the pull of the future —a need for home and a yearning for independence.

Carmolina’s own story is interwoven with the stories of her family: the memories and legends of her Grandmother Doria; the courtship tales of her father, a gentle policeman and her mother, a lonely waitress; and the painful story of Doriana, her beautiful but silent sister.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A first novel about Italian American immigrant life in the '40s and '50s. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In 1995, De Rosa won the Jaffe Foundation Award, which is given in support of emerging women writers. This intense, moving first novel of Italian American life in one of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods during the 1940s and 1950s shows that the award was well deserved. In poetic prose, De Rosa paints a portrait both realistic and haunting of a subculture where all the important decisions of life were made in the kitchen. At the center of the novel is vivacious, eight-year-old Carmolina, whose life is complicated by her relationship with her beloved older sister, Doriana, beautiful but mute. When Carmolina overhears talk of Doriana's impending institutionalization, she runs away from home, traveling through the city on a three-day journey that is a learning experience for both her and her family. Originally published in a limited edition in 1980, this book is a fine achievement.Vicki J. Cecil, Hartford City P.L., Ind.
Kirkus Reviews
First published in a limited edition in 1980 by a small press in Chicago, and long out of print, De Rosa's debut fiction indeed deserves this full-scale republication. Understated, lyrical, and intensely imagistic, De Rosa's tale of Italian ghetto life stands out from other immigrant narratives by virtue of its artistry.

Ignore the long and trendy afterword by Edvige Giunta, which buries De Rosa's subtleties in the lingo of multiculturalism and gender studies. If this meditation on time and identity was missed the first time around, it may have been less the victim of prejudice than of its own refinements. De Rosa's shifting interior monologues and her poignant vignettes follow a narrative logic of their own—hardly the stuff of conventional fiction. But a story does emerge from the impressionistic prose. On the West Side of Chicago, in the 1940s, in an ethnic neighborhood now vanished, a young couple raise two girls next door to the husband's mother's home. He's an Italian American policeman married to a Lithuanian. The mother-in-law is a wise old widow whose folksy Catholicism is composed of equal parts superstition and piety, and is never mawkish. The elder daughter, Doriana, is beautiful but apparently autistic, while her sister, Carmolina, an eight-year-old chatterbox and storyteller, is fiercely loyal to her mostly mute sibling. When she overhears the elders discussing Doriana's institutionalization, the distraught Carmolina flees. Her trolley-ride into unknown neighborhoods across town could easily be a ride into oblivion, and she's lost for three days, sending her family into a tailspin of recriminations and fears. Carmolina's distinctly American journey crosses through time as well, looking forward to her father's death, her beloved grandmother's passing, and the loss of an entire neighborhood. And with it, a way of life.

A novel like this—so literary yet so full of life—takes time to find a wider audience. Perhaps that time has finally come.

From the Publisher

"Understated, lyrical and intensely imagistic, De Rosa’s tale of Italian ghetto life stands out from other immigrant narratives by virtue of its artistry." —Kirkus

"Paper Fish is a unique piece of work. Tina De Rosa renders experience from the inside, going deeper and deeper . . . as if the smells and sounds and taste of things had a life of their own." —Marilyn French, author of The Women's Room

"Out of childhood memories, family lore, and an intimate knowledge of Chicago's West Side Italian community, Paper Fish creates a world of radiant particularities—bent hands at domestic work; the feel of rough wool and old palms against a child's face; city noises, cooking smells, and kitchen sounds. This is a world that urban renewal and acculturation intended to sweep away; it is reclaimed in De Rosa's wonderfully focused, tactile prose." —Michael Anania, author of The Red Menace

"Gorgeous writing and a generosity of spirit—a gift of love." —Rona Jaffe, author of The Best of Everything

"A novel of daring and intense imagery crafted out of the harsh rhythms of Italian immigrant life. De Rosa's lyricism is not a sweetly coated nostalgia. She holds this remembered world in a rough, respectful embrace." —Janet Zandy, author of Calling Home: Working-Class Women's Writings

"De Rosa paints memory pictures like haunting dreams of aching beauty. Her poetic prose evokes the ghosts of our own childhood, makes us face them, try to see, hear, smell, and touch them as sharply as she does." —Dorothy Bryant, author of Miss Giardino

"De Rosa's virtuoso performance makes Paper Fish comparable to Henry Roth's Call It Sleep. It is a major achievement by one of our foremost artists of Italian/American identity and modern culture." —Mary Jo Bona, editor of The Voices We Carry: Recent Italian/American Women Writers

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558611467
Publisher:
Feminist Press at The City University of New York
Publication date:
10/28/1996
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.29(w) x 9.38(h) x 0.74(d)

What People are Saying About This

Louise DeSalvo
"The best Italian-American novel by a woman of this century."
Marilyn French
"'Paper Fish' is unique piece of work. Tina De Rosa renders experience from the inside, going deeper and deeper...as if the smells and sounds and taste of things had a life of their own.

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