There is a subway line in New York that’s famous because over 100 languages are spoken by people living along its route, and I grew up on that No 7 line! Italian was one of those languages, or at least a version of it - a strange minestrone of 'real' Italian, regional dialects and New Yorkese. My generation was the transitional one – we all spoke English as our first language and had only a vague understanding of the odd word or two of ‘Italian’ that we picked up when our parents decided that they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about.
I lived in a small, tightly knit community of immigrant Italians where everyone knew (or wanted to know!) everyone else’s business. It was here that I began my love affair with ‘stories’. The truth about how so-and-so came to escape the mafia in Sicily. The gossip about why the lady next door never got married. The scandal of the family on the corner.
The culture was predominantly that of southern Italian peasantry. Boys, the pride of the family, could do what they wanted; girls, the mainstay of the family, were expected to get married. Education for a boy was important so he could get a good job. Education for a girl was necessary so she could snare an educated man. Being pretty and obedient, being a 'good girl' until marriage, and being a good wife were all that a female was expected to be. All this probably sounds like something out of a 'classic' novel you were forced to study in school, but I can assure you it was VERY REAL in my neighborhood in the 1960s and 70s. Our luck was that we were the first generation to have the chance of a university education, and to be able to break away from this.
I did. My parents, although desperate for me to be settled and secure, were very enlightened and allowed me to follow my own heart, for which I am eternally grateful. A bachelor's degree was not enough for me; I was straight off to graduate school to get a PhD in Organic Chemistry instead of getting a husband.
Wanderlust then took over my budding career as a research scientist and I went to Milan, Italy to work for a large food company. It was the 1980s, and the city was bustling and fashionable and so different from what I had known in New York! It was here that the seeds of my book were planted, fertilized by all those stories from my youth and watered by the everyday lives of people I met.
After three years, I returned to America and began working for another large food company based in Texas. Being a professional woman in the 80s was an interesting time, and I soon discovered that the social changes shown in movies and media hype is actually frustratingly slow to arrive in real life. Through a wonderful fluke of fate, I finally met the kind of man you truly want to marry, and I did. He was an Englishman employed overseas and thus I started a new life as a travelling wife and mother - South America, the Middle East, Egypt and finally the UK. What an adventure! Lots of make-do jobs, lots of different cultures, lots more stories. But no book. It just wasn't the right time for it.Twenty five years on, I finally felt it was time to get the tale written. All my wandering and wondering in that time convinced me that there are thousands of everyday folk whose stories are just as shocking, just as inspiring and just as gripping as those of the rich and famous. I am writing because I want to tell the best of them.
So here is my first effort. A book forged from both real stories and my imagination, set in the 1930s when both society at large and Fascism imprisoned the lives and souls of women; a book about what is possible when a girl steals a chance to follow a dream.
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Tomorrow or Never
by Maria Martin
Published: April 5, 2017
1930s Italy was an oppressive society for women. Vitessa, a young woman from the poverty-stricken south refuses to let the evils of tradition, prejudice and Fascism crush her dream of a better life. Will the arrival of a political exile from the affluent north change her destiny? Will a desperate deception be a help or a hindrance? Can she succeed as Mussolini leads the country towards war?
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