My Italian Version of the Great American Novel

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Book covered with Italian flagI always wanted to be a writer and the dream of writing a great novel lived in my subconscious from the time I read my first book. That was in Italy.

My family moved to Belgium. There I read my first book in French. I wrote short stories, even managed to win an award, but I was young and language-challenged. No novel yet.

Time flies and one day you’re sitting in your empty nest in front of a computer, and you say to yourself, “This is it, the perfect time, the perfect place.” For me, that epiphany came after I moved to the United States. I was suddenly consumed with the need to write the Great American Novel. The fact I wasn’t American was a small bump in the road.

And so it began. Soon I realized the English language wasn’t my biggest problem. Heck, you can ask your friends, you can consult an Italian/English Dictionary. You can even go to Google for translation. I said translation, not necessarily interpretation. But again, just a small bump in the road to fame and fortune.

While a writer can conjure text out of thin air, common American cultural references don’t come easily to someone who grew up in small European towns. There were no school busses or afternoon classes. We went home at one o’clock with several hours of homework, which we had to complete because the teachers actually checked it. Never even heard of football or proms. No idea what a corsage was. Few households had phones or TVs and for transportation we used bicycles. Anyone dating before the age of sixteen was considered a bad kid, although parents, friends and neighbors used other colorful words to drive home the concept.

Religion ruled our lives. By religion I mean Catholicism, which was the only game in town. The only non Caucasian people I’d seen were in magazines or in the slide shows the Catholic missionaries used to solicit donations.

I could go on, but I’m sure you can see how my Great American Novel was shaping up to be not American and not so great. In my vernacular, Americanisms and cultural references were all but nonexistent. I learned to compromise. My main character, always Italian-born, uses her background to tell her story and brings her experiences to life, in English. So this version of the American Novel will come to you by way of a European import.

It’s not a coincidence that my slogan is Murder Italian Style. What can I say? Try it, you’ll like it. It’s Italian! Ciao.

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