All roads lead to Sicily via Staten Island. The Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere, New York, is sponsoring an online fundraising campaign to support Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily. Written by Anthony Di Renzo, this historical novel—like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard—chronicles the destruction of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies during the Italian Revolution.
“We absolutely embrace this initiative,” said Louis Calvelli, Casa Belvedere’s Executive Director. “While the proof of Italy’s rich heritage is aplenty, Casa Belvedere is actively working on building upon the Italian cultural landscape by formally sponsoring an arts project. Once the restoration of the mansion is complete, we look forward to providing a venue for Italian and Italian American artists to showcase their work.”
Di Renzo’s novel reflects Casa Belvedere’s institutional mission. Last year, the foundation capped its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Risorgimento with a public debate on Italian Unification. Moderated by Cavaliere Vincenzo Marra, this lively exchange between Pino Aprile, author of Terroni (Piemme 2010), and Lorenzo del Boca, author of Polentoni (Piemme 2011) touched upon the often painful historical and political issues discussed in Trinàcria.
Did unification benefit or ruin the Mezzogiorno, the ancestral region of most Italian immigrants? Guernica Editions, an independent press in Toronto, Ontario, believes Di Renzo’s novel “could contribute significantly” to the ongoing review of this fundamental question on both sides of the Atlantic. Dedicated to promoting new works of global literature and shattering stereotypes, Guernica considers Trinàcria “a timely book.”
Because Guernica’s government funding does not extend to non-Canadian authors, Di Renzo and consultant Roberto Ragone considered several organizations. “Casa Belvedere emerged as our sponsor because of its mission,” Ragone explained: “to preserve and promote an appreciation of Italian language, arts, literature, history, fashion, cuisine, and commerce.’ It was a perfect fit.”
The book’s author called the partnership “a stroke of fate, la forza del destino.” “I am grateful for Casa Belvedere’s support and hope my novel will contribute to its success,” said Di Renzo, associate professor of writing and Italian American history at Ithaca College. “By uncovering buried stories about our collective past, the foundation is positioning itself to play a unique role among Italian American organizations.”
Di Renzo’s novel also digs up the past. Its title derives from the ancient Greek name for Sicily. Trinàcria refers to the island’s triangular shape and the three-legged gorgon on its regional flag. It is also the nickname of the novel’s narrator and protagonist, Zita Valanguerra Spinelli (1794-1882), Marchesa of Scalea, whose turbulent life mirrors Sicily’s rocky transition from feudalism to capitalism.
The story begins when a Hollywood film crew invades Palermo to shoot an epic about the Italian Revolution. Researching the past, the director visits the city’s Capuchin catacombs. Preserved in the catacombs among over eight thousand mummies is Marchesa Spinelli. Dead for eighty years, she remains haunted with memories, and her spirit recalls her complicated relationships with her scientist father; a British wine merchant, whom the Marchesa failed to marry; her patriotic and rebellious granddaughter; and Giacomo Leopardi, the doomed Romantic poet.
Organized by Roberto Ragone, whose professional motto is “Transforming Vision to Value,” Trinàcria’s online fundraising campaign intends to raise the necessary funds to cover the book’s editing, design, printing, promotion, and distribution. Based on their giving level, the site bestows donors with an aristocratic rank from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (e.g. Baron/Baroness, Count/Countess, Prince/Princess, King/Queen). Each title offers its own gifts and privileges, from bookmarks, calendars, and posters to formal acknowledgment in the printed novel and an invitation to its official book launch.
This book campaign will run until December 13, 2012. All future royalties will benefit the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere. For more details, visit:http://www.indiegogo.com/Trinàcria.
Anthony Di Renzo, a fugitive from advertising, teaches writing and Italian American history at Ithaca College and has appeared in Alimentum, Il Caffé, Cottonwood Magazine, Essays & Fictions, Feile-Festa, The Normal School, River Styx, Syracuse Scholar, and Voices in Italian Americana. His most recent book Bitter Greens: Essays on Food, Politics, and Ethnicity from the Imperial Kitchen (State University of New York Press, 2010) was praised by Gastonomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. Trinàcria would become his first published novel.
Anthony descends from Spanish nobility who settled in Bagheria, Sicily in the early 18th century, and lives in Ithaca, New York. For more information about his work, visit: http://faculty.ithaca.edu/direnzo