Can truth be found when time and silence have buried your family's history?
Well-known social commentator and author Rebecca Huntley had a life-altering moment when her Italian Nonna died. As incredible stories about her grandmother's life began to surface Rebecca realised that Nonna was much more than the wonderful cook and kind-hearted embroiderer she had always known.
Desperate to know more, Rebecca searches for the truth about her - a search that takes her from the island of Elba off the Tuscan coast through the sugar cane fields of north Queensland and the internment camps of the Second World War to life in inner-city Sydney.
She discovers her great-grandfather and grandfather were two of thousands of men, women and children interned as 'enemy aliens' during World War II. Innocent citizens but the Australian Government viewed them as particular threats to the safety of the country because they were nationals of countries at war with Australia.
This period of internment would also lead to the changing role of women and motherhood, with Rebecca's grandmother forced to keep the family sugarcane farms going in the absence of the men.
Learning more about Nonna also stirs up old ghosts in Rebecca's relationship with her mother and challenges Rebecca's own sense of self as she, pregnant with her first child, has to wonder what it really means to be a mother.
Evocative and honest, The Italian Girl is a story of love, loss and identity and the complex mother-daughter relationships across five generations. For Rebecca, it is also a story of a third generation migrant attempting to recapture her heritage and understand her family's journey from new migrants to citizens - what does it mean to be an Italian girl in a changing world?
Perhaps there will be a time when we have worked through all the nationalities the world has to offer, each of them passing the rigorous citizenship test we put the first generation through, and we will be left with no one to fear.
Dr Rebecca Huntley is a researcher and author with a background in publishing, academia and politics. She holds degrees in law and film studies and a PhD in Gender Studies. Rebecca is the Executive Director of The Ipsos Mackay Report, Australia's longest running qualitative study on social trends. She is the author of two books, The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation and Eating Between the Lines: food and equality in Australia. Rebecca is a regular contributor to essay collections, magazines, newspapers and online publications. She is a sought after commentator on social trends on radio, in print and on television. Rebecca is married with young daughter and lives in Sydney.
The Italian Girl
Author: Dr Rebecca Huntley