italocanadese Urban Italian Canadian Sun, 11 Jun 2017 21:32:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ottawa celebrates Italian Week Sun, 11 Jun 2017 21:14:59 +0000  ...continued]]> Ottawa Italian WeekNow in its 43rd year, the Ottawa Italian Week Festival is officially underway in Canada’s capital. With festivities mostly centered around Ottawa’s Little Italy on Preston Street, there are activities and entertainment for all ages and tastes.

Tony Mariani has attended every edition of Italian Week since its early beginnings. A first-generation Italian from Abruzzo, Mariani was raised on Preston Street and would go on become an active leader in the local Italian community. In 2015 he was elected Italian Week president.

“Our festival’s mandate is to provide the Italian experience to our community and to share our heritage and culture with the rest of our society,” Mariani explains.

Now retired and an empty-nester, Mariani admits that the free timetime is necessary for the job.

“It’s almost a full time job,” Mariani muses.

“I want to mention our Italian Week committee, if I may. They work so hard. There is no one person who does this,” he adds.

The opening weekend (June 10 and June 11) includes the annual St. Anthony’s Feast Weekend at St. Anthony’s Church (427 Booth Street). Activities include an outdoor mass and procession, and entertainment and food for all ages.

Ottawa Italian WeekMontreal comedian Guido Cocomello will make Ottawa home for a week, as he headlines nightly performances at Absolute Comedy (412 Preston Street). His shows run from June 12 to 18, inclusively, at 8:30PM.

, an exhibit that features the works of the winners of a children’s art contest, is on display at the Italian Canadian Historical Centre at Villa Marconi (1026 Baseline Road) from June 16 to June 18. The contest theme was “Un ricordo nella vita dei nonni – Souvenirs of my grandparents” and was open to children under the age of 13.

The Grand Finale Weekend takes place in Little Italy on the final three days of the festival. Activities include a display of Ferrari and Vintage Italian cars, activities for the children, loads of Italian food, and free performances by Comedian Joe Cacchione, Enrico Capuano & T-Rock, DJ Momentum, Michael Castaldo, and Marco Calliari.

According to city officials, approximately 180,000 people take part in the festival on a yearly basis. The festival is the second largest cultural festival in Ottawa.

“This year’s theme is ‘Italian upon Italian upon Italian,’” Mariani comments.

Ottawa’s Italian Week Festival runs until Sunday, June 18. For full program details, please visit

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Book celebrates the Italians of Cape Breton Thu, 08 Jun 2017 13:00:10 +0000  ...continued]]> Italian Lives: Cape Breton MemoriesA collection of stories and articles that celebrates and examines the Italian community of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is now out as a 2nd edition. Italian Lives: Cape Breton Memories offers dozens and dozens of articles, interviews, memoirs and stories as seen through the eyes of Italians living in the eastern Canadian community, from the late 19th century onwards.

The collection of stories covers themes of immigration experiences, the treatment of Italians during the Second World War, family life, work life in the local steel and coal industries as well as in politics and law, commerce, medicine and religion, arts, culture cuisine, cultural identity, and so on.

In 1871, 40 Italians resided in Nova Scotia, with a mere five in Cape Breton. Today they number in the thousands.

The book, originally published in 1999, was the brainchild of professor and anthropologist Sam Migliore and the late academic Lino Polegato. The colleagues were educators at University College of Cape Breton (now known as Cape Breton University). In 1993, Polegato suddenly passed away. Realizing he couldn’t go it alone, Migliore approached Evo DiPierro.

DiPierro was born and raised in Cape Breton. In the early 1990s he was a recent University College of Cape Breton grad and working for the Federal Government. He was considering returning to school to study law.

“Sam tells me, we’re going to write articles about Italian families. I asked him how long would it take. Sam said, oh, a few more months. It took five years,” DiPierro muses.

“Sam and Lino worked on it for awhile before I came on board. We tried to meet as many Italians as possible. Of the 3000 Italians in Cape Breton, I would say I met about 20%,” he continues.

Today, Evo DiPierro is a Catholic Priest serving in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. Sam Migliore now teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia.

“In 2016 I had two copies of the book. My brother Nick had a friend who wanted a copy. I gave her a copy, so I just had one left,” DiPierro.

Last fall, Cape Breton University Press (CBU Press) approached Migliore and DiPierro about reissuing a second edition. The reason was simple; requests were continually coming in for the out-of-print book.

Over a 3-month period, DiPierro, Migliore and Mike Hunter from CBU Press – all now residing in different parts of Canada – worked together to revise and update the book. The book was published this past March.

The new edition features an updated Preface and Introduction, and acknowledges those Italians who have passed away since the first edition.

“This book allows us to keep the stories of the Italians of Cape Breton alive. What got me were some of the candid thoughtful discussions in the book. Questions of personal identity. Frank narratives. Not all experiences were good experiences,” DiPierro reflects.

“I don’t want to get too spiritual, but, my parents passed away in 2015, then in 2016 I get a letter from the publisher about reprinting the book. The Good Lord is telling me, look, your parents are gone, but your parents and Italians are counting on you to keep their stories alive. That meant something to me.”

Italian Lives: Cape Breton Memories is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher at The official book launch takes places this Friday, June 9, from 2:00PM to 4:00PM, at the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University. The launch is open to the public.

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Un momento with Domenico Capilongo Tue, 06 Jun 2017 17:00:42 +0000  ...continued]]> Domenico CapilongoDomenico Capilongo is a writer, teacher, and karate instructor. He’s also a dad, husband, and “Toronto guy.” He has written three books of poetry and a book of short fiction. His latest book of poetry, send, explores the ways in which we communicate. From smoke signals to texting, Capilongo uses lyric meditation, personal narratives and experimental poetry to examine how we choose to relate to one another. Capilongo is also a contributor to Italocanadese with his “Un Momento” series, where he profiles Italian-Canadian writers using a Q&A platform. This time, we turn the tables on Capilongo – it’s his turn to be featured in “un momento.” The official launch of send will take place on Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 3:30PM at Supermarket Restaurant & Bar in Toronto (268 Augusta Ave).

Be sure to follow Capilongo’s work at

What was the inspiration behind your poetry collection, send?

The inspiration for this collection came from so many places. I guess it started from noticing how fast the technology around communication has developed in the last few years. As a high school teacher, I have really noticed firsthand how communication has totally changed. I have also been inspired so much by listening to music, and one song that really sparked the collection was a song by Arcade Fire, We Used to Wait. The song is a lament for a time when we used to write love letters, sign our name and wait for them to arrive and it was in the waiting that we found so much meaning. So I chose to write about, and in, different forms of communication and also explore what we say to each other.

Some of the final poems in send are an homage to both your grandparents and their history. What inspired those particular poems? 

I often write about my grandparents. I think they can shape us quite a bit and also can be a key to understanding ourselves. I thought about different ways communication played a part in their lives. In particular, I shared a room with my Nonna and she used to snore loudly all night. I can still hear it and it had an important rhythm, and was in itself a form of communication that I now share with my own family every night!

What are your thoughts about social media and its influence/effect on the future of human interaction?

Well, like anything thing else, I think that technology and how we use it can overtake us, and if we’re not careful, we will lose the ability to communicate properly with one another. It’s been proven that humans thrive on face-to-face communication, but people are minimizing this contact. I think in the future, people who are able to talk and listen face-to-face will be more healthy, successful and all round more fun to be around.

Is it safe to say that you are obsessed with the telephone in all its incarnations? Where does this obsession come from?

I find the object of the telephone so fascinating. I think our connection to the pre-cellular phone was far more intimate than the touch screen. It allowed us to focus on sound. The intimacy of listening and speaking into a device and holding the weight of it close to you is mostly lost. So as this species is starting to die out, I like to try and document it on social media like some kind of National Geographic photographer.

Your stage presence at readings is both confident and humorous. Where does that talent come from? Was there perhaps some acting in your past? Or is this a skill you acquired as a teacher?

I like doing readings. I find it exciting to engage with an audience and feel how the words transfer to the reader or listener. I’ve acted in theatre before and enjoyed it. I also think in order to try and hold teenagers’ attention as a teacher requires a certain level of performance that I really enjoy.

Can you describe your writing process?

I don’t really have a set process for writing. I move from inspiration to writing exercises and then project-driven design to get the writing out. I sometimes write daily depending on what I’m working on, but I try not to stress out too much about how much or when I’m writing, as opposed to focusing on the quality of what I’m writing. Lately, I find that I get inspired first, then design a concept for a project, and then work through that until I feel done.

What are you working on next?

I’ve recently finished an entire book of poetry based on a jazz song entitled Salt Peanuts. I was obsessed with this song so I decided to write over 80 poems about the song, the musicians, and about the amazing snack. I’m also trying to finish a novel about a young man writing to his unborn child, and a picture book about a boy who doesn’t want to kiss his Bisnonna.

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Italian Heritage Month 2017 Thu, 01 Jun 2017 21:40:48 +0000  ...continued]]> For the first time in its seven-year lifespan, June is officially Italian Heritage Month across Canada!

Although the status was technically only recognized in Ontario since 2010, over the years cities all across Canada have unofficially celebrated with various activities and events. Last month, on May 17, 2017, all that changed when the Canadian Parliament passed a motion to officially recognize June as Italian Heritage Month. Now, any and all Canadians of Italian heritage can officially celebrate.

The organizers of Italian Heritage Month will officially mark the beginning of 30 days of celebration on Friday, June 2, at 11:00AM, with a flag raising ceremony in Queen’s Park in Toronto.

Vancouver’s Italian Cultural Centre – or simply “Il Centro” – has a month of activities and events planned to celebrate Italian Heritage Month. Highlights include film screenings, culinary events, performances, classes, lectures and more. Festivities get underway on the evening of Friday, June 2 at the Centro (3075 Slocan Street, Vancouver) with a performance by Italian folk singer Eugenio Bennato and his band, followed by celebrations for La Festa della Repubblica. On Sunday, June 11, the annual “Italian Day on the Drive” runs from 12:00PM to 8:00PM on Commercial Drive, Vancouver’s original Little Italy. The street festival offers street entertainers, music, food, fashion, contests and more. For a complete program at Il Centro, visit

The Italian Contemporary Film Festival first started as a Toronto-only event. It now hosts film screenings in Toronto, Vaughan, Vancouver, Hamilton, Montreal and Quebec City. The festival runs from June 8 to 16. For the complete film schedule, please visit

The Association of Italian Canadian Writers is also getting in on the celebrations with a series of readings by Italian-Canadian writers and authors across Canada. “Books & Biscotti” events will be held in Montreal (June 8), Sudbury (June 10), Woodbridge (June 10 and 25), Ottawa (June 11), Toronto (June 24), and Vancouver (June 27). For details, please visit

In Ottawa, the 43rd annual Ottawa Italian Week Festival runs from June 8 to 18. One of the oldest and largest cultural festivals in Ottawa, this year’s program is focused on all things Italian, bringing in performers and artists from across Canada, the U.S. and Italy. The “Grand Finale Weekend” – June 16, 17 and 18 on Preston Street at the 417 Overpass – will feature free performances by Montreal Comedian Joe Cacchione, rockers Rio & the Rockabilly Revival, Italian singer Enrico Capuano & T-Rock, Italian-born classical tenor Michael Castaldo, Montreal singer/songwriter Marco Calliari, and many more. Visit for the complete schedule.

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June declared Italian Heritage Month Thu, 18 May 2017 16:00:37 +0000  ...continued]]> Italian Heritage MonthYesterday (May 17, 2017), the Canadian Parliament passed a motion to officially recognize June as Italian Heritage Month.

The private Member’s motion was introduced by Deborah Schulte, Liberal MP for King-Vaughan, in June of 2016. At the time of her notice, Schulte said: “My riding has the second largest constituency of Italian-Canadians in the country, and I have seen firsthand the dedication, hard work and entrepreneurship that is the hallmark of the Italian community.”

The motion was supported by other Liberal MPs and various Italian-Canadian community organizations.

Motion M-64 passed unanimously. It reads: “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Italian-Canadians have made to Canadian society, the richness of the Italian language and culture, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Italian heritage for future generations by declaring June, every year, Italian Heritage Month.”

In 2010, the Ontario legislature passed a bill to officially declare June Italian Heritage Month. Although the status was technically only recognized in Ontario, over the years cities all across Canada have unofficially celebrated Italian Heritage Month with various activities and events.

Italo_20170518_ItalianHeritageMonthMichael Tibollo was one of the first to spearhead the Ontario initiative. At the time he was president of the Toronto chapter of the National Congress of Italian Canadians. Today, he is the president of the Italian Canadian Heritage Foundation.

“Today, MP Deb Schulte helped fulfill a dream that I first had in 2010 when we started the process of declaring Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. We dreamed and worked to have it also declared throughout Canada. Today it became a reality thanks to her efforts and the unanimous vote of the House. On the eve of Italian Heritage Month 2017, our 7th annual celebration, and Canada’s 150th birthday, I am truly proud to be a Canadian of Italian Heritage, fiercely proud of my country and my heritage. Looking forward to an amazing celebration across our great land,” Tibollo wrote yesterday in a Facebook post.

The 2017 edition of Italian Heritage Month runs throughout the month of June. For a complete list of events and activities, please visit

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New documentary film on Marco Calliari Tue, 25 Apr 2017 04:04:58 +0000  ...continued]]> Calliari's QuebecCalliari’s QuébecLe Québec de Calliari in French – is a new documentary film by director Anita Aloisio that follows the creative journey of Italian-Montreal singer/songwriter, Marco Calliari, as he strives to stay relevant in the Quebec music industry.

Calliari started his musical career at age 14 as a member of the popular Quebec metal group, Anonymus. In 2003, he left the band to focus on a solo career. His Italian-language music calls on the influences of Italian folk music, jazz, and world beat. Over the years he has toured extensively to promote his numerous albums, including Che La Vita (2004), Mia Dolce Vita (2006) and Al Far Est (2010). His cover of the popular Italian song, L’Americano, became an international hit when it was remixed as “We No Speak Americano” by M.H.M.

Calliari’s faith in the industry was put to the test after the disappointing sales of his 2014 album, Mi Ricordo. The album was a tribute to eleven renowned French-Québécois songs which Calliari translated and performed in Italian. The album name played homage to his nationalism – an Italian translation of Quebec’s infamous license plate “Je me souviens.”

The album was a financial and critical failure. Worst yet, fans and critics alike continued to label Calliari an “ethnic” artist despite his national-pride-infused album and despite the fact that he was born and raised in Montreal.

Calliari has thus decided to make his next album a French-language solo album. His first ever French-language album. He is gambling on the theory that this new album will finally gain him recognition as a “Québécois” artist.

It is this critical turn in his career that Aloisio’s documentary film will focus on.

Aloisio and producer Agata De Santis want to start filming this coming summer, just as Calliari is scheduled to start working on the new album.

In order to start filming (as they await responses from various public funding agencies), De Santis and Aloisio decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise the necessary budget.

“We don’t want to miss key shooting opportunities that will be coming up very soon,” De Santis explains.

“We are turning to the fans of Marco Calliari and to the Italian-Montreal and Italian-Canadian community for their support. We also believe that this campaign gives the public a unique relationship to the film,” she continues.

“Contributors to the crowdfunding campaign will be able to follow the progress of the film, from the start of the production, into the edit, and to the release in September of 2018. They will be able to witness all the ups and downs of making a documentary film. There are many!”

This will be Aloisio’s third documentary film. Her first film, Straniera Come Donna (2002) explored the understanding and effects of cultural and social tradition on women of Italian origin in Quebec. Her second documentary film, Les enfants de la loi 101 (2007) explored the impact that Quebec’s Language Charter had on the first generation of children such as herself, 30 years after its adoption.

De Santis runs Redhead Productions and is the founding editor of

The duo hope to raise $19,500 with the campaign. This total will cover the cost of ten days of filming with a professional crew. The campaign runs until May 19, 2017.

To make a contribution, please visit

Un momento with Terri Favro Fri, 14 Apr 2017 14:56:45 +0000  ...continued]]> Terri FavroTerri Favro is producing some of the most exciting writing in Canada today. Her work masterfully pushes the boundaries of genre to provide such a satisfying ride for all readers who are ready to enjoy the journey. She’s the author of three novels: Sputnik’s Children (ECW), Once Upon A Time in West Toronto (Inanna), and The Proxy Bride, winner of the Ken Klonsky-Quattro Books Novella Award. She also collaborates on the Bella graphic novel series, published by Grey Borders. So buckle your seatbelt, grab one of her books, and hang on!

Where did you get the idea for your novel, Sputnik’s Children?

Three times in my life, I thought I was about to be killed by nuclear bombs. The first time was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which started on my sixth birthday. I remember the church parking lot next door to our house jammed with cars, even though it wasn’t Sunday, because people were flocking to church to pray. My older sister said she wasn’t going to bother studying for a big exam because what was the point if we were all going to die anyway? I really did think we were goners.

The second time was in grade 10, in 1972, when Nixon launched the nuclear test at Amchitka Island in the Aleutians: Greenpeace was founded over this incident. As part of a consciousness raising exercise, the student council and principal of my high school in St. Catharines broke into the announcements one morning a few days after the test detonation, and announced that dead radioactive birds had washed up on the coast of Siberia and the Soviet Union had launched ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) at first-strike targets in North America which of course included Niagara Fall hydro station, only about twenty miles away from us. The principal announced started listing the emergency busses we were all supposed to take home so we could die with our families. This went on for about five minutes until they told us it wasn’t real: they just wanted us to experience what it would feel like to be in a nuclear war. That was genuinely scary (and can you imagine what would happen to a school council that tried to do that today?) Different era.

The third time was April 20, 1986 at about 2 a.m. on my wedding night. Seriously. My husband Ron and I were staying in a small inn on the Niagara River in the historic village of Queenston, below Queenston Heights Park where we’d had our reception. There had been a lot of geopolitical tension that month because President Reagan had bombed Libya, killing one of Omar Kaddafi’s sons, and no one really knew whether the Libyans “had the bomb” – it was in the news a lot. Anyway, that night, Ron and I are lying in bed and all of a sudden an air raid siren goes off. It was unbelievably loud. Because the whole Niagara area was a first strike target, I’d been raised to believe that if they dropped the bomb, we’d be the first to go. Muscle memory from all my childhood air raid drills kicked in: I jumped out of bed and started yelling at Ron to get dressed so we could drive out of the area. Ron looked out the window and observed that no one else in the town seemed to be reacting. The next morning we found out that the air raid siren had gone off in Lewiston, New York, to summon the volunteer fire department. While we were on our honeymoon in Cape Breton, we heard the sirens used there for the same purpose! Ironically, on our flight home, I picked up a newspaper on the plane and the headline was about the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

Needless to say, I wrote about all this. The resulting essay, “Snapshots of a Cold War Childhood”, was a series of memories about growing up in the shadow of the bomb, which I anchored to different years by using the type of camera that my father would have been using at the time. The flip side of the long play record of the cold war was the space race, which seemed to promise that if the bomb was dropped, we’d be able to go live on the moon. The piece was published by the U.K. literary journal, The Red Line, in 2013.

In the fall of that year, I had a little bit of money from being shortlisted for a CBC literary prize in creative non-fiction, which Ron and I used to rent an RV and go for a hiking trip at Lake Superior Provincial Park. I decided on that trip to turn my cold war piece into a full-length book. At first, I was planning to write it as a non-fiction book, but it struck me that it would be more interesting to do it as fiction so that I could draw on all the metaphors and myths that grew out of the cold war period – from sci-fi books and shows, to superhero comic books. And so Sputnik’s Children was born.

How would you describe this novel? Is it dystopic, sci-fi, magic realism? Or does it even matter what kind of writing label it gets?

I would describe it as a cross-genre book: literary fiction meets science fiction. I don’t mean to imply that science fiction can’t be literary, but Sputnik’s Children doesn’t easily fall into the genre sci-fi category. It has dystopian elements too. I think the territory it inhabits is the same one as Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novels, like Oryx and Crake.

Was it difficult to describe the Atomic Age to people who have never grown up without the Internet?

I think that millennials are familiar with many of the tropes and metaphors of the Atomic Age from shows like Futurama and many, many Hollywood movies. Not to mention to the Internet itself! Bomb shelters, air raids, mushroom clouds – I think this have all become a part of pop culture, so I don’t think a young adult would be confused by them, anymore than a child of the TV age (e.g., me) was puzzled by the stories about the two world wars.

What was your writing process like? Did you write your novel daily?

As I mentioned earlier, I started the novel while I was on a hiking trip. We had an RV so I brought along my laptop, and I’d work for a couple of hours, then we’d hike. (This shows up in one chapter of the novel, too.) I often do quite a lot of writing while travelling or staying in hotels (shades of the main character in Sputnik’s Children!)

Because my day job is as a freelance copywriter, mostly for ad agencies, I don’t have a regular work routine although I do work out of a home office. My process depends on the day: some days I had lots of time to work on the book, so I might be putting in five or six hours of writing time on it; other days I might be fitting in a half hour here, a half hour there, around copy revisions. I tend to avoid getting too stuck in a particular writing routine: I write as often as possible, wherever I happen to be. But once I’ve started a project I’m pretty obsessive so I’m always working on it in my head – I do a lot of rewriting while on my bike!

What was the hardest part of writing this novel?

Keeping the parallel timelines straight! My characters jump around in time quite a lot, so trying to keep their ages straight took a lot of back checking, and the eagle-eyed proofreader still found things to fix.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

I really love writing about bad guys, so Debbie’s encounters with Larry “the Shark” Kowalchuck were fun to write. There were also sections that come very close to memoir, such as when Debbie enrolls herself in the Famous Artists Art School from an ad on the back of a comic book. I actually did that, and the rep showed up at our house for a sales call. Unlike Debbie’s father, mine wouldn’t sign me up.

I’d also say the last third of the novel, which builds toward a series of dramatic and unexpected events in outer space, were very satisfying to write. I was able to stretch my imagination in ways that I haven’t done before. I spent quite a bit of time reading astronauts’ memoirs about what it was like to walk in space.

Have you ever travelled through time?

I do it all the time, every time I look back at old journals, or photo albums, or things I wrote ten years ago. In that sense, I think we all time-travel.

Do you read comics? And if so, can you recommend any?

As a young person, I read tons of superhero comics, especially DC. I loved Superman, Batman, and Justice League of America. I’ve gone back to reading the reboot of the Wonder Woman series recently: as is probably obvious in the novel, I’m very interested in her as a character.

In terms of graphic novels, I think the Love and Rockets series by the Hernandez Brothers is wonderful. I also love the Essex County books by Jeff Lemire. And if you haven’t already read the masterpiece From Hell or the Maus graphic novels… it’s time.

And I might also recommend the Bella comics that I write with my husband and creative partner Ron Edding for Gray Border Books. We’ll have a new 150-page full-length graphic novel coming out in the next few months called Bella and the Facer Street Gang. I’m extremely proud of it. I won’t give away the story but it does have links to my grandfather’s experiences as an Italian soldier on the Austrian front in World War One.

Does your Italian background play any role in your writing or writing process?

I think my background as the child of Italian immigrants, growing up in a neighbourhood of mixed ethnicities, in a working class town on the U.S.-Canada border, has had a huge impact on the stories I’ve developed. My characters often have a similar background to me (as Debbie does, in this novel). I benefited from a very strong oral storytelling tradition in my family, particularly from my father’s father, who had a storehouse of fairytales and folktales from the Italian alpine region of Piemonte, not far from where Umberto Eco’s masterpiece The Name of the Rose is set. Nonno’s stories were always very dark, scary tales of being lost in the woods and there were monsters aplenty. I think that a lot of the books I enjoy reading, and the stories I tell, have a bit of sense of danger and darkness in them. But there was always a lot of humour in the family stories I grew up hearing, so my writing does veer into what might be called dark humour.

If Sputnik’s Children becomes a film, who should play Debbie and why?

This is a tough one because Debbie ages from a child of twelve to a woman in her fifties in this book. We see her as a teenager and a young adult too. But I think the actor who keeps coming to mind for me is Ellen Page, who has this plucky, funny, quirky side that is very much Debbie. Ellen is 30 years old, according to her IMDB profile but looks younger, so she could be Debbie in her mid-20s in the last third of the book.

What advice do you have for young writers?

Be patient and persistent. Stories can take time to develop into their final shape and can require a lot of revision and rethinking. Keep writing all the time, but don’t rush the final result. And do keep sending work out no matter how many times you get rejected. Rejection is a given for any writer –– well, most of us anyway!

Also, one of the toughest things for a writer is to decide what to write about. You probably won’t want to write about being a writer all the time. Having a lot of different life experiences, whether through a day job (which trust me, you’ll need,) or travel or sports or other experiences can give you a rich pool of material.

Sputnik’s ChildrenCan you tell us about how the cool cover of Sputnik’s Children was created? Did you design it or have any say?

Thanks for this question. I love the cover too! Did you notice that the stars in outer space actually twinkle? I have my publisher ECW Press and the cover designer David Gee to thank. I did make some very broad suggestions about what could appear on the cover and David ran with them. This was one of a whole series of cover ideas he came up with and not the only one I liked. I think it was the best choice.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the early stages of a novel, tentatively called United Kingdom of America, that is a fleshed out version of a short story I wrote for a steampunk anthology. All I will say is that it features an Italian-Canadian version of Laura Secord and that Wallis Simpson makes an appearance.

I’m also in the final stages of a non-fiction book that I’m writing for a publisher in the U.S. about my generation’s relationship with robots, both fictional and real. It’s called Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact and Speculation. It should be out early in 2018.

Also, my partner/husband Ron and I are working on a graphic novel based on an unsolved murder in 1930s Toronto, which will be called Providence.

Un momento with Michelle Alfano Wed, 15 Mar 2017 15:55:13 +0000  ...continued]]> Michelle Alfano - The Unfinished Dollhouse
Michelle Alfano is one of the most vibrant and honest voices in the Toronto literary community. He first novella, Made up of Arias, won the Bressani Award for Short Fiction and she was an amazing Associate Editor-in-Chief for the literary quarterly Descant. Alfano also writes an engaging literary blog (, and is the co-founder of the long-running reading series, The (Not So) Nice Italian Girls and Friends. Her latest work is a powerful and intimate memoir about being the mother of a transgendered child.

Why did you write this memoir? 

Initially, The Unfinished Dollhouse began as a daily blog under an anonymous name and I was just cataloguing what I was feeling and what was happening when my son River came out as transgender at the age of sixteen – a particularly challenging time for the whole family. I stopped for a while and my son urged me to continue. Then it evolved into something I wanted to have for the parents of transgender children that might honestly present our feelings as parents – the need to protect your child, confusion, fear, anger, discomfort, intense love… that it was legitimate to have all of these feelings. Sometimes simultaneously.

What was your writing process like? 

When I start something new I commit to writing a minimum of 500 words a day (roughly two typewritten pages), no matter what the quality of the work is. Just to get the creative flow going. Usually, when I start a new project I must envision the end and work my way towards it. This might be an eccentric way of visualizing it, but I think of the new work as if it was an incomplete alphabet – I start with “Z” – the ending – and then add the letters as I go along. It might be “Q” or “B” or “L”. I fill in the narrative blanks.

Michelle Alfano - The Unfinished Dollhouse Michelle AlfanoWhat is the meaning of the title?

The meaning of The Unfinished Dollhouse… When our child River was four (before there was any consciousness of gender and he presented as female) we bought a dollhouse. River had no interest whatsoever in the dollhouse or other traditionally feminine things. Rob, my husband, and I argued about how it should be constructed and decorated. I was very rigid about how I thought it should be designed. It became a metaphor for my thoughts about gender and what kind of person (specifically the type of girl) that River should be. That it was never finished is an apt metaphor for our relationship – River never conformed to my stereotyped image of what a girl should be because he was not a girl. The dollhouse was never completed due to lack his lack of interest in this traditionally feminine toy.

What was the hardest part of writing this memoir?

It was difficult to write about, and re-live, River’s health issues from the ages of 12 to 16. He fell into a severe depression at the age of 12 and he also experienced a series of undiagnosed physical ailments – stomach problems, chest pains, headaches, mysterious aches in other parts of his body, lethargy, extreme exhaustion, intense social anxiety. He suffered largely in silence for four years until he could express what was truly troubling him – that he was not living the life that he felt he should be living – as a boy. We were frightened and bewildered as there did not appear any physical causes for his illness. This was difficult to re-live as a writer.

What kind of reaction do you think it will get?

The revelation that River is trans usually engenders several different responses in the people we know: by far the foremost one is kindness and an attempt to understand, then there are those who are kind but bewildered and don’t know how to react so they are cautious when they speak of it. There is also those who simply act as if River has disappeared from the planet and never mention him; and, lastly, there is the group of people who act as if we have all perished and never have contact with us anymore. I imagine the media reaction (if any) will be similar: mostly kindness and support, sometimes bewilderment, feigned ignorance or, sadly, a complete disavowal of the existence of trans people.

Which is harder to write, fiction or non-fiction?

Non-fiction, as in the creation of a personal memoir, is definitely more emotional and therefore more difficult!

You have run the reading series Not So Nice Italian Girls and Friends for years, what’s the main focus of this series and when is the next one?

The reading series was created in 2009 and was formed to promote the work of Italo-Canadian writers as well as to create a dialogue with writers of all backgrounds, orientations and ethnicities. The plan is to have our third annual “Amazons of the Mediterranean” reading – an all female line-up – during the month of June – Italian Heritage Month.

Does your Italian background play any role in what you write?

It did initially with my first book Made Up of Arias – the plot explicitly deals with a young Italian-born, working class mother obsessed with opera who imagines herself to be an operatic heroine or in my second (unpublished) novel about the life of the Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano. But my current fiction project does not touch upon my ethnicity at all.

What advice do you have for people trying to write a memoir?

Take risks, even if it means including embarrassing revelations. Persist. Keep writing. If it moves you, it will likely move others.

What are you working on now?

I have two projects that I am working on: completing a piece of historical fiction about the life of Salvatore Giuliano in a novel entitled We Were Like You. I have a second project entitled Destiny, think of me while you sleep – a modern drama about a love triangle set in Toronto.

Photographing An Annual Ritual Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:53:51 +0000  ...continued]]> Vincenzo Pietropaolo - RitualThis month, photographer Vincenzo Pietropaolo is set to publish a unique coffee table book titled, Ritual, that chronicles one of the largest processions in North America – the Good Friday Procession in Toronto’s Little Italy. Published by Black Dog Publishing, the book features over 150 photographs of the annual procession between the years of 1969 and 2015.

Pietropaolo’s work capturing the annual procession started as a sort of fluke. In 1969, Pietropaolo lived in Toronto’s Little Italy and was interested in photography. All he needed was a subject.

“In a way I cut my teeth in photography with the procession. And I went back the next year, and the next year, and the next year,” Pietropaolo explains.

“I was interested in immigration. I photograph the Italian community, life in general in Little Italy, Italian workers. The procession is a narrative of the immigrant experience in the city. We are a city of immigrants. It’s what makes Toronto such a unique city,” he continues.

The annual Good Friday Procession runs along an 8-kilometre route over a 3-hour period in Toronto’s Little Italy.

Vincenzo Pietropaolo - RitualVincenzo Pietropaolo - Ritual“People often mistake a procession with a parade. A parade is a secular event. A procession is an act of prayer, an act of devotion. It’s a spiritual event. And in the case of the Good Friday Procession, it’s a sad ritual,” Pietropaolo comments.

“The Good Friday Procession is a special one because all parts of Italy take part in it. It’s not particular to one town. It’s become a meeting place for Italians from everywhere.”

Although it is not heavily publicized, the annual procession is now a ritual for many spectators. When the weather cooperates, as many as 100,000 people line up along the route to watch.

Unable to find an publisher at first, Pietropaolo resorted to a crowdfunding campaign last year to raise the funds necessary to publish Ritual. His campaign surpassed his expectations. He was able to hit his $24,000 goal in 35 days.

“Publishing an art book like this is a very expensive proposition. I feel so much gratitude to my supporters. It couldn’t have been done without them,” Pietropaolo explains.

Crowdfunding campaigns always include a variety of “gifts” that donors can choose. The Ritual campaign included a hard copy of the book as one of its gifts. 200 donors chose to receive about 300 books – an impressive “pre-sale” in the world of independent publishing.

“Books have a lasting value. It’s an artifact, an art object. It becomes a lasting document. Books are forever. Even today, people just love holding a book in their hands.”

The official Ritual book launch takes place tonight (February 23, 2017), at 6:30PM, at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto (496 Huron Street). The reception will also celebrate the launch of an exhibition of photographs by Pietropaolo that will be on display until March 16, 2017.

Next week, on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto will host In conversation with the artist: Vincenzo Pietropaolo. The event starts at 7:00PM, with Professor Don Snyder in conversation with Pietropaolo.

To order a copy of Ritual, please visit

The Italian Tornado Wed, 25 Jan 2017 20:57:34 +0000  ...continued]]> Jonathan Di BellaItalians are no strangers to combat sports, and perhaps no modern characters epitomize that image more than the fictional “Italian Stallion” Rocky Balboa or the true-life icon “Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta.

At the other end of the spectrum, some might conjure up an image of a gentler kind in Ralph Macchio as The Karate Kid.

Somewhere between “wax on, wax off” and a freezer full of sides of beef battered with bloody knuckle stamps lies a contemporary story in full bloom.

In the northeast end of Montreal you will find a small gym with big block letters on the building: ANGELO DI BELLA KARATE KICKBOXING.

The owner and founder is Canadian born Angelo Di Bella. He’s an unassuming man, and at first glance you might not guess that he once stood at the pinnacle of the International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) with an impressive 26-1 record, effectively retiring as world champion. No small feat!

Today, however, Di Bella dedicates his full attention to teaching both kids and adults. He may very well be kickboxing’s best-kept secret – a world class coach, sought after by elite athletes from organizations such as Glory and the UFC – right in our own backyard.

Bi Bella happens to be self-taught – a unique pedigree in this regard, forging himself through competition and sharing that knowledge as a teacher with a reputation as the best in the business.

The business for that matter is family run, and we could write an entire article on the “behind-the-scenes.” Word is Mrs. Di Bella keeps the whole operation running smoothly and efficiently – like a martial arts school should be run.

The school has been around since 1988. It’s clean, it’s sharp, it’s tidy, it’s modern. But really, what you feel is the living energy of excellence – that championship mentality that beckons you to be the best possible version of yourself. Totally pro. But totally inclusive.

A specialty of the Di Bella Kickboxing School is the kids’ program. More than half of the scheduling is devoted to children and the kids love it.

One of Di Bella’s top students is his very own son, Jonathan Di Bella. On first seeing Jonathan, one would think that he is just the sweetest kid, but when you see him hit the pads, frankly, it’s a little scary. This young man competes at 125 lbs. Despite his small stature, his power is uncanny. Coupled with his fluidity and timing, he’s nothing short of incredible to behold.

Although Jonathan is a striking specialist, he is nevertheless honing all his skill sets. On this day of training, he’s working on his wrestling with Canadian Olympic silver medalist “Gia” Sissaouri.

Word is spreading fast on his prowess. Though he only just turned pro, and with a record of 2-0, opponents have already begun dodging Jonathan, even dropping out of scheduled bouts.

Keep your eyes open for this 20-year old prospect!

For more information about the Di Bella Kickboxing School, please visit