The Good Old Days in China are over by the time Rafaella turns eight. She knows war and privation as she breathes air. She is 18 when she and her parents reach Italy with almost no money. Her father dying, Rafaella finds herself head of the family. In Naples, they are shunted to a refugee relocation camp in bombed-out Catania, Sicily, not a city in 1952 where a job can be found. Borrowing the train fare, Rafaella travels to Rome and there looks up her shipboard friend, Stefano. He seems to know Rome well already, and impresses Rafaella with his self-assurance. A cynical young man, he has observed that Italians liked to observe the public conventions while dodging them in private. Rafaella, too, begins learning how to live in this new country. Her journey is a process that engages all sense and wit. Learning has a price. As she looks back upon the landscape of her life, she assesses the different faces of courage she has known and recognizes the strong heart imbued in every one of them.
I was born in Shanghai, China, exiled by the commies in 1952, went to Italy with my family. After five years we emigrated to the U.S. Ten years after that, I moved to Brazil with my husband, Renato. Back in California in 1980, I began writing. I have five novels: The Year of the Rat, Journey from Shanghai, Stone of Heaven, The Snake Woman of Ipanema, A Rare Passion; and two story/essay collections, Pastiche: Stories and Such and Farrago: More Stories. Eight short stories and essays earned first-place awards. One story, "Cicadas," was nominated for the 2013 Pushcart Prize.read more