Behind Closed Doors
With an ear for dialogue comparable to that of Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, and Ernest Hemingway, Sicilian writer Maria Messina presents a captivating yet often brutal image of women’s lives in early 20th century Italy.
The first collection of Messina’s work to be translated into English, Behind Closed Doors captures habits and gestures, words spoken and those left unsaid, to portray the struggles of individuals who found themselves caught between traditions they respected and the deep need to ease social restrictions. Messina’s stories reveal a world in which women are shuttered in their homes, becoming virtual servants to their families, while men emigrate to the United States in search of fortune. It is a world of unstated privilege in which habits and implied commands perpetuate women’s servitude.
“[T]hese ten persuasive tales offer stark, finely drawn portraits of poor and middle-class Sicilian women in the early years of the twentieth century.”
“A window into another time and another culture. . . . We understand the emotions of [the] characters, simultaneously victims and heroines. . . . Messina’s words will leave their mark. Their power makes them impossible to forget.”
“Virtually the only great Italian fiction about the massive Sicilian immigration to America written while it was happening . . . honed, polished, devastatingly direct—verismo at its unsentimental best.”