Set in Chicago during the 1940s and 1950s, Paper Fish is populated by hardworking Italian-American immigrants whose heroism lies in their quiet, sometimes tragic humanity. At the center of the novel is young Carmolina, who is torn between the bonds of the past and the pull of the future —a need for home and a yearning for independence.
Carmolina’s own story is interwoven with the stories of her family: the memories and legends of her Grandmother Doria; the courtship tales of her father, a gentle policeman and her mother, a lonely waitress; and the painful story of Doriana, her beautiful but silent sister.
"Paper Fish is a unique piece of work. Tina De Rosa renders experience from the inside, going deeper and deeper . . . as if the smells and sounds and taste of things had a life of their own."
"Out of childhood memories, family lore, and an intimate knowledge of Chicago's West Side Italian community, Paper Fish creates a world of radiant particularities—bent hands at domestic work; the feel of rough wool and old palms against a child's face; city noises, cooking smells, and kitchen sounds. This is a world that urban renewal and acculturation intended to sweep away; it is reclaimed in De Rosa's wonderfully focused, tactile prose."
"Gorgeous writing and a generosity of spirit—a gift of love."
"A novel of daring and intense imagery crafted out of the harsh rhythms of Italian immigrant life. De Rosa's lyricism is not a sweetly coated nostalgia. She holds this remembered world in a rough, respectful embrace."
"De Rosa paints memory pictures like haunting dreams of aching beauty. Her poetic prose evokes the ghosts of our own childhood, makes us face them, try to see, hear, smell, and touch them as sharply as she does."
"De Rosa's virtuoso performance makes Paper Fish comparable to Henry Roth's Call It Sleep. It is a major achievement by one of our foremost artists of Italian/American identity and modern culture."