Books

Debut novel pays tribute to Italian grandmother

In her debut novel, “Children of Italy,” Christine Simolke makes good on a promise to herself to revisit her grandmother’s life story and draws on her family’s experiences to tell of the hardworking, resilient and loving Falconi family in the 1920s.
In her debut novel, “Children of Italy,” Christine Simolke makes good on a promise to herself to revisit her grandmother’s life story and draws on her family’s experiences to tell of the hardworking, resilient and loving Falconi family in the 1920s. Hawkins Publishing

Christine Simolke of Marion has always been fascinated by the immigrant experience of Giovanna, her Italian grandmother. Giovanna and Simolke’s great aunt, Evelina, often shared stories about their journey across the ocean, and tales of romance and secrets.

In her debut novel, “Children of Italy” (Hawkins Publishing), Simolke makes good on a promise to herself to revisit her grandmother’s life story and draws on her family’s experiences to tell of the hardworking, resilient and loving Falconi family in the 1920s. She tackles the cultural clashes, stigmas and harsh labor conditions that often faced immigrants.

“I think the first generation of immigrants from Italy were caught between two worlds,” she said. “They wanted a better life for their children, and believed America was the place where that could happen. But they didn’t want to let go of the ‘old country’ customs, traditions and way of life.

“When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents stressed the importance of family and hard work,” she continued. “We always got together for big holiday and Sunday meals where ‘old country’ foods were prepared by all of the women. Much emphasis was placed on hard work, respect for elders and practical living.”

A subplot includes a gay love story. “The idea … was prompted by my Zia Evelina,” Simolke said. She told me that her mother’s brother, Bernandino, also came to live in the U.S., and he never married. She didn’t know what it meant to be gay when she was a child or even a young woman, but she realized in her old age, that it was likely he was gay.”

Simolke will speak and sign copies of her book at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17, at Page 158 Books in Wake Forest.

Awards

Raleigh’s Craig LeHoullier received the 2016 Media Awards Gold Medal of Achievement for “Epic Tomatoes” (Storey Publishing). The national award is given by GWA: The Association for Garden Communications.

Author Cate Beauman’s books “Reagan’s Redemption” and “Answers for Julie” (both CreateSpace) have been named 2016 Aspen Gold winners by the Romance Writers of America. “Reagan’s Redemption” also won the Heart of Excellence Readers Choice Award. Beauman, who lives in Wake Forest, recently released “Deceiving Bella” (CreateSpace), the 11th in her Bodyguards of L.A. County series.

Triangle-area authors: We want to hear about your new book. Send information to bookbeat@newsobserver.com

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