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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Mother Tongue

Mother Tongue

An American Life in Italy

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi; With a new foreword by Patricia Hampl and a new preface by the author

North Point Press

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A probing and poetic examination of language, food, faith, and family attachment in Italian life through the eyes of an American who moved to Parma with her husband and family.

In the 1980s, the American writer Wallis Wilde-Menozzi moved permanently with her Italian husband and her daughter to Parma, a sophisticated city in northern Italy, where he became a professor of biology. Her search for rootedness in the city that was to be her home introduced her to complexities in her identity as she migrated into another language and looked for links beyond the joys of Verdi, Correggio, and Parmesan cheese, which visitors have rightly extolled for centuries. The local resistance to change perceived as individualistic led Wilde-Menozzi to explore the pull and challenge of difference and discover the backbone she needed for artistic freedom.

In Mother Tongue, Wilde-Menozzi offers stories of far-sighted lives, remarkable Parma men and remarkable women, including the Renaissance abbess Giovanna Piacenza, the fighting Donella Rossi Sanvitale, and her own indefatigable mother-in-law. Framed with a new introduction by the author, and a new foreword by Patricia Hampl, this classic on diversity and tolerance, family, faith, and food in Italy and the United States is at once timeless and timely, a “large, beautiful window into the intelligent, literate, reflective life of Italy” (Shirley Hazzard).

Praise for Mother Tongue

"Mother Tongue is a sustained and generous meditation on difference, the discovery of oneself and one’s own culture through the urgent need to come to terms with another. Few writers have savoured Italy so intimately and intelligently, over so many years, or brought their experience to the page with such candour and clarity." —Tim Parks, author of Europa

"This book is a large, beautiful window into the intelligent, literate, reflective life of Italy—intimately lived and observed by a modern American woman. A wise and delightful work, admirable in its synthesis of understanding, independence, and rare humility.” —Shirley Hazzard, author of The Great Fire

"[Wilde-Menozzi] delves deeply into both the negative and the positive aspects of Italy’s close-knit families and devotion to tradition . . . Wilde-Menozzi’s writing is original and often poetic and moving.” —Publishers Weekly

"A poignant and poetic memoir of an American woman’s life in Parma, Italy . . . Wilde-Menozzi is passionate, sensuous, even fierce . . . Life, death, politics, language, art, books, food, and love commingle on the page . . . Evocative and moving.” —Kirkus Reviews

Someday I hope to have the courage to write a book like Wallis Wilde-Menozzi’s Mother Tongue. As for our styles, it’s clear that I’m a hockey player; she’s a ballerina.” —Beppesevergnini, author La Bella Figure: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

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"Mother Tongue is a sustained and generous meditation on difference, the discovery of oneself and one’s own culture through the urgent need to come to terms with another. Few writers have savoured Italy so intimately and intelligently, over so many years, or brought their experience to the page with such candour and clarity." —Tim Parks, author of Europa

"This book is a large, beautiful window into the intelligent, literate, reflective life of Italy—intimately lived and observed by a modern American woman. A wise and delightful work, admirable in its synthesis of understanding, independence, and rare humility.” —Shirley Hazzard, author of The Great Fire

"[Wilde-Menozzi] delves deeply into both the negative and the positive aspects of Italy’s close-knit families and devotion to tradition . . . Wilde-Menozzi’s writing is original and often poetic and moving.” —Publishers Weekly

"A poignant and poetic memoir of an American woman’s life in Parma, Italy . . . Wilde-Menozzi is passionate, sensuous, even fierce . . . Life, death, politics, language, art, books, food, and love commingle on the page . . . Evocative and moving.” —Kirkus Reviews

Someday I hope to have the courage to write a book like Wallis Wilde-Menozzi’s Mother Tongue. As for our styles, it’s clear that I’m a hockey player; she’s a ballerina.” —Beppesevergnini, author La Bella Figure: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

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Reviews from Goodreads

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi; With a new foreword by Patricia Hampl and a new preface by the author

Wallis Wilde-Menozzi's books include The Other Side of the Tiber and Toscanelli's Ray. Her poetry, essays, and translations have appeared in Granta, The Best Spiritual Writing, Words Without Borders, and Tel Aviv Review. A collection of her essays was published in Italian as L'Oceano e'dentro di noi. Currently she is teaching migrant women who are waiting for their Italian papers.

image of Wallis Wilde-Menozzio
Elizabeth Lutz Pauncz

Read Author Interview at The Sigh Press

North Point Press

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