by Rita Ciresi
A bitter olive of a collection: stories from the girlhood and adulthood of sisters Angelina (Angel) and Pasqualina (Lina). Angel narrates, younger, less favored, remembering her mother’s pinched and shapeless existence in New Haven; her father’s work as a soda deliveryman; evenings in front of the television. The dark side of the Italian American experience is viciously etched in the plastic religious trinkets and snatches of dialect. In the first half, their mother wrings every drop of possible joy from their existence, as Lina dreams of a life of riches and glamour. In the second half, Lina is married to a nice man she can’t stand, and Angel writes greeting cards for a living. Ciresi gets the details horribly right: her mother carrying cheese and salami for a bus ride to New York; her father endlessly reminding them what keeps a roof over their heads; the sisters’ frantic and hopeless longing to be normal–that is, blonde and nonethnic.