This summer I have read two books about the western part of Sicily. Midnight in Sicily was the first one. This book led me to Palermo and to Guttoso and the Vuccaria and to Letizia Battaglia*. It is a book about the trial of Giulio Andreotti and the past leading up to this trial. I absolutely loved this book. It was on loan to me and I shall buy my own.
The second book is Sicilian Lives by Danilo Dolci. By looking at the cover I know my family will be reminded of my mother in law. I placed the red pepper on the corner...I don't know why but I think it belongs there. Danilo Dolci is also known as the Sicilian Gandhi. You can read more about him by going here.**
The book is a series of chapter stories told to Dolci by Sicilian men and a few women. The time was in the 1950's. I read this book like an animal...rushing myself page after page. I will go back and reread it taking my time. After each chapter I would talk with my husband or my friend Angela about the contents. Always...without fail I was told..yes, that is how it was here as well. My friend Angela was in tears one day describing how hard her mother had worked for so little. She wishes her mother was alive today to have life easier. Owning 1/4 of a cow...traveling many kilometers outside of town for a day's work...waiting and waiting and waiting for the overseer to give you the pay you have earned only to find it less than you were promised.
Some of the ideas against banding together as in organizing the work force opened my eyes to the way men work in this town. Also, the politics and getting out the vote have not traveled far from the 50's. Most of the chapters were the stories of men with only a few told by women. The conditions of western and I imagine most of Sicily at that time are compared to Calcutta in India. I think it must compare with Appalachia....only worse.
*Letizia Battaglia can be tagged with many labels – photographer, political activist, feminist, environmentalist – none of which adequately convey who she is. Since the 1970s Battaglia has been documenting life in her native Sicily – its tragedies and violence, its stoicism and dignity. Rarely has an artist been bestowed with such an appropriate name: Letizia means joy, Battaglia means battle, and these two poles define the emotional territory that her work inhabits. While she started out as a photojournalist, Battaglia transcends the confines of that field and imbues every image with a timeless nobility and humanity. For several years she stopped taking pictures and officially entered the world of politics, standing for election and serving on the city council. She was instrumental in saving and reviving the historic center of Palermo, established her own publishing house and is deeply involved in working for the rights of women and, most recently, prisoners.