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Catina’s Haircut

A Novel in Stories

Paola Corso

Publication Year: 2010

Catina’s Haircut: A Novel in Stories spans four generations of a peasant family in the brutal poverty of post-Unification southern Italy and in an immigrant’s United States. The women in these tales dare to cross boundaries by discovering magical leaps inherent in the landscape, in themselves, and in the stories they tell and retell of family tragedy at a time of political unrest. Through an oral tradition embedded in the stone of memory and the flow of its reinvention, their passionate tale of resistance and transformation courses forward into new generations in a new world.
    A woman threatens to join the land reform struggle in her Calabrian hill town, against her husband’s will, during a call for revolution in 1919. A brother and sister turn to the village sorceress in Fascist Italy to bring rain to their father’s drought-stricken farm. In Pittsburgh, new immigrants witness a miraculous rescue during the Great Flood of 1936. A young girl courageously dives into the Allegheny River to save her grandfather’s only memento of the old country. With only broken English to guide her, a widow hops a bus in search of live chickens to cook for Easter dinner in her husband’s memory. An aging woman in the title story is on a quest to cut the ankle-length hair as hard as the rocky soil of Calabria in a drought. A lonely woman who survived World War II bombings in her close-knit village, struggles to find community as a recent immigrant. A daughter visits her mother’s hill town to try and fulfill a wish for her to see the Fata Morgana. These haunting images permeate Corso’s linked stories of loss, hope, struggle, and freedom.

An official selection of The Sons of Italy® Book Club

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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p. vii

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p. viii

For translating Italian words and phrases into Calabrese dialect, I thank Erminia Angilletta and the Calabria Exchange, Francesco Vollero of Locri, and Agatha Stellato of Calabrese Associates. Thanks also to Cathy Cerrone Fratto, who shared oral histories she conducted ...

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The Rise and Fall of Antonio Del Negro

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pp. 3-23

Antonio Del Negro walked two and a half hours out of San Procopio and back looking for work. He gauged distance by the color of the earth. When it was a sheen of bright green spikes in the lowland, he was a long way from home. As grass began to thin and fade, he approached halfway on his return trip, ...

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St. Odo’s Curse

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pp. 24-51

To deliver his noon meal of bread, olives, and wine, she followed a path on the hillside, passing stumps of trees chopped down for firewood when they had become too parched to bear fruit, too parched for their withered leaves to cast an umbrella of shadow. The land in Calabria was so dry after another summer with no rain ...

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Hell and High Water

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pp. 52-61


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Giorgio’s Green Felt Hat

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pp. 62-68

The river was muddy, the color of sun-baked earth, and the hat floated on its murky waters. It was the hat my grandfather wore the day he came to this country, and only when it was drowning in the river’s bliss did I believe that if I could rescue it—if I could somehow swim across the amber stream and hold it in my hands ...

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Jesus behind Bars

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pp. 69-77

Not far from St. Patr ic k’s Roman Catholic Church, from its sanctuary smells of melting wax and replica of Rome’s Holy Stairs where worshipers ascend on their knees, Jesus is behind bars, his nose rubbing against an iron fence on Liberty Avenue. ...

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Catina’s Haircut

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pp. 78-84

There once was an Italian woman named Catina who had most unusual hair. From the front, she looked like any other woman her age. She had black-framed glasses, a shade of rouge to give her cheeks some color, and a flowered silk scarf over her head, her soft, gray curls slipping out to drape her face. ...

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Flash Light

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pp. 85-95

From t he kitchen window, Maria Ungaro spots someone dart past the lilac bush toward her back door and is so startled that she drops a spoon into a pitcher of juice. Citrus drops splash Maria Ungaro in the eye as her neighbor pounds on the door with the meaty side of her fist. She opens it, squinting. ...

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pp. 96-103

It took exactly twenty-six minutes for a mother, a daughter, and a chicken to board a bus to San Procopio. The driver, a slight man with narrow sideburns who was sitting on a bench near the parked bus, appeared to move at a pace that habit had timed for him rather than a schedule. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299248437
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299248406

Page Count: 103
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 798295784
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Catina’s Haircut

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Subject Headings

  • Immigrants -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- Fiction.
  • Italians -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh -- Fiction.
  • Calabria (Italy) -- Fiction.
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Fiction.
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