Mixed Messages: Reflections on an Italian Jewish Family and Exile by Eleanor Foa
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In post-World War II America, who ever heard of an Italian Jew? No one. Journalist and author Eleanor Foa, born in Italy, raised in America, daughter of a brilliant father whose Italian-Jewish roots trace back to 16th-century printers, was proud of her exotic roots, yet knew little about her lineage. In 2006, accompanied by her American born sister, she retraces the footsteps of their ancestors through northern Italy (Soragna, Cortemaggiore, Sabbioneta, Parma) and reconnects with living relatives in Turin, Naples, and Rome. It’s both a physical and psychological journey during which the past illuminates the present. Retrospectively, the author’s close relationship with her Italian-born father, and her younger sisters’ with their German-born mother highlight complex family dynamics, hinting at what was talked about and what remained unsaid.
Mixed Messages is both a universal tale of exile, family, and generational conflict and the history of one specific and remarkable family whose successes and tragedies mirror the flowering of Italian Jewish life from the mid-fourteen hundreds to its dispersal, destruction and partial resurrection, during and after the rise of Fascism.
Mixed Messages is a beautifully written multilayered story, with surprises and discoveries at every turn. Part road trip and part family history, the book ultimately addresses the process of activating memory through the resonance of places, people and personal entanglements. It will especially reverberate with readers who loved Lucette Lagnado’s The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and Andre Aciman’s Out of Egypt.
Year first published: 2019
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