Peter E. Randall Publisher Book Lists
A Full House:
Growing Up Italian
by Rita Conti Harrison
OUT OF PRINT
Praise from Elizabeth Knies...
"Rita Harrison is a natural writer. She describes her colorful idiosyncratic, immigrant family with honesty and humor, and by extension gives a portrait of a whole era. A Full House overflows with life."
Here is the fascinating memoir of an Italian American woman growing up in a large family during the Great Depression. Travel back to the early 1900s when Harrison's mother, father, aunts and cousins arrived from Italy to carve out a new life in a small mill town in Massachusetts. Harrison and her siblings learn of their parents' native land, through the cooking and sharing of delicious Italian food and their mother's singing of her native songs while doing laundry. Their "papa" was a patriarch with a strong work ethic and a green thumb; much of what the family ate was grown in his backyard garden. The author's portraits are vivid and compelling.
Excerpt from A Full House
In 1895, long before she was our mother, Candida Dallamora was born in the small mountainside town of Morfasso in northern Italy, the sixth child after five boys. They lived in a large stone house with the owner, il padrone, and his family.
On the coldest days, the women would enter the barn to sit among the animals for warmth. There they'd knit and sew and commiserate together.
Since shoes were worn only in winter, (Candida) had to walk barefoot on mountain paths to fetch water, accompanied by a pet dog. On one shoulder she carried a long pole that had a pail at each end. Periodically, she'd rotate her body on the balls of her feet in a kind of dance step that swung the pole to the other shoulder for relief.
In 1909, two of her brothers left for America and established themselves in a small Massachusetts town. Four years later my mother, her parents, and a niece and nephew sailed from LeHavre, France to join them. My grandparents had to go back to Italy. They were not willing to leave without my mother, even though she wanted more than anything to stay. They had met my father who was also from northern Italy, was older than my mother, and had a job. So a marriage was arranged.
My mother found work at the local woolen mill. Her boss found the name Candida difficult to manage and called her Carolina. She was small but not petite. Her hourglass figure, round dark eyes, and lovely heart-shaped face framed by thick brown waves drawn back into a chignon, drew looks of admiration.
One day her co-workers approached her and rubbed a wet cloth on her cheeks. Many times they had wondered if she wore rouge, but each time they asked her, she simply stared back at them, not understanding. It was her creamy pink complexion and rosy cheeks that were in question, but the wet cloth revealed no makeup.
Using bootleg money, my father eventually bought a house about half a mile from the town square (My mother) took out an eighteen-year annuity on (each child) as we were born and gave the insurance man, who came to collect periodically, ten cents on each policy.
Told with honesty, humor and pathos, this memoir will bring forth a flood of memories for immigrant families, of the first half of the 20th century.
$15.00, ISBN 1-931807-05-1
6" x 9", 128 pages, 12 photographs, paperback