by Anna Aragno

"She sensed that the gap between herself and her Mother was growing, as was the distance between Sicily and America."

With all the attention the media has generated over the President's immigration ban, Aragno’s fiction debut is well-timed. The book—a collection of a dozen short stories—explores the emotional toll refugees and immigrants experience as they leave behind everything they have ever known to start a new life in America. Through close first-person narration, each story clearly puts readers in the head of Aragno’s main characters, detailing their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and, of course, fears. Each character in turn laments loss of family and friends, holding on to them through vivid memories, while contemplating their new life of opportunity abroad.

Several of the tales take a fictional bent to historical events. In “Addio Emilio,” Aragno puts her protagonist in peril aboard the 1956 trans-Atlantic voyage of the SS Andrea Doria, which ultimately sank killing 56 passengers. In another tale, “The Triangle,” her protagonist celebrates her arrival in America by landing a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, only to see it consumed by fire in 1911 New York. In both tales, the protagonist’s dreams are shattered by unexpected tragedy, demonstrating that not all stories have happy endings.

An Italian-born immigrant herself, Aragno came to America on a Fulbright scholarship as a young girl. Through her hard work and determination, she is now a practicing psychoanalyst living and working in New York City, allowing her to draw on her own personal memories and experiences to lend verisimilitude to the voice of her characters. As she points out in her introduction, there is danger in the crossing itself, as well as in the eventual arrival in a new world. But as her stories demonstrate, the perseverance and courage to make a better life often outweighs any negatives. While each story is poignant in its own way and certainly immersive, the reader should know they are told more through introspection and memoir than actual dramatization.

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