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Behind Closed Doors

PDF With an ear for dialogue that may be compared to Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, and Ernest Hemingway, Sicilian writer Maria Messina presents the captivating and brutal realities of women living in early-twentieth-century Italy in this first collection of her work available in English.

Behind Closed Doors portrays the habits and gestures, the words spoken and those left unsaid, of individuals caught between the traditions they respect and a desire to ease the social restrictions in their lives. Messina’s stories reveal a world in which women are shuttered in their houses, virtual servants to their families, and working men immigrate to the United States in fortune-seeking droves. It is also a world of unstated privileges in which habits and implied commands perpetuate women’s servitude.

A cultural album that captures the lives of peasant, working-class, and middle-class women, this volume will appeal to millions of Italian descendants and readers everywhere fascinated by Italian history.

Maria Messina (1887–1944) wrote short stories, children’s tales, and novels about her native Sicily until she died of multiple sclerosis. In recent years, her work has been rediscovered in Italy, where she has been compared to Luigi Pirandello and Giovanni Verga.

Fred Gardaphe is the director of Italian American Studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the president of MELUS (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the US).

Elise Magistro holds a doctorate in Italian from UCLA and is a lecturer in Italian at Scripps College in Claremont, California.

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