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Giovanna's 86 Circles

And Other Stories

Paola Corso

Publication Year: 2005

    These ten magical stories are primarily set in Pittsburgh-area river towns, where Italian American women and girls draw from their culture and folklore to bring life and a sense of wonder to a seemingly barren region of the Rust Belt. Each story catapults the ordinary into something original and unpredictable.
    A skeptical journalist scopes out the bar where the town mayor, in seemingly perfect health, is drinking with his buddies and celebrating what he claims is the last day of his life. A woman donates her dead mother’s clothes to a thrift shop but learns that their destiny is not what she expected. A ten-year-old girl wrestles with the facts of life as she watches her neighbor struggle to get pregnant while her teenage sister finds it all too easy. A high school girl hallucinates in a steamy hospital laundry room and discovers she can see her coworkers’ futures. A developer’s wrecking ball is no match for the legend of Giovanna’s green thumb in the title story “Giovanna’s 86 Circles.”
    Quirky and profound, Corso’s magical leaps uncover the everyday poetry of these women’s lives.



Finalist for the John Gardner Fiction Book Award

Selected for “Best Short Stories of 2005” in Montserrat Review

Best Books for Regional Special Interests, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Association

Sons of Italy National Book Club Selection

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix

My thanks to the editors of the following publications in which these stories, some in earlier versions, first appeared: “Giovanna’s 86 Circles” and “Unraveled” in Italian Americana, “Yesterday’s News” in Primavera, “Freezer Burn” in VIA: Voices in Italian Americana, “Between the Sheets” in Getting By: Narratives of Working Lives, Bottom...

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Yesterday’s News

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pp. 3-11

Topaz, the thrift store clerk with the stickpin hair and rhinestone smile, shoos me into a dressing room as though she were swishing a fly out the window. With enough bracelets on her wrist to rival the rings of Saturn, she waves me in, pulls the curtain shut, and hands me the very same old clothing of...

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Between the Sheets

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pp. 12-23

The morning low was ninety-two degrees, but the temperature in the hospital laundry room started to rise as soon as hot steam escaped from the open lids of washers faster than smoke out of a chimneystack. The steam spread when the wet loads were carried over to the dryers, and soon the laundry was floating...

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pp. 24-39

Why Mrs. Natoli knitted in the cellar, poking away with those needles just to let it unravel was beyond me. When her knitting got as far as her lap, she started all over again with the same loopy yarn. Watching her rip it out was like seeing someone yanking a bandage off....

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Nose Dive

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pp. 40-53

I had just climbed into bed when a powdery black bird with onyx eyes emerged from the fireplace flue. Its wings in motion were slow and choppy as if it were the creature’s first time in flight. Slipping on a robe and a pair of tennis shoes, I crawled out of bed, my untied laces dragging with each step. I propped the screen...

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Giovanna’s 86 Circles

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pp. 54-64

Ready, set, go.” I held my breath while Marty counted. “One thousand one. One thousand two . . .” I spewed the air from my mouth and then counted for Marty. It turned out neither of us were gonna be good kissers. Even fourth graders like me knew the longer you could hold your breath, the better you could kiss....

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The Drying Corner

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pp. 65-76

I never thought of my grandmother as old, but for the first time she acted old. Moving slow, head to the ground, drooping like a puppet. The cane she used for her bad knee was ready to snap from all her weight. I helped her up the stairs to her front porch, through the kitchen door and into the living room where she sat...

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Raw Egg in Beer

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pp. 77-91

On the day he was to die, the mayor wore a crisp white shirt. It was bright enough to celebrate the absence of color and starched to ward off temptation from wrinkles. The brim of his Stetson looked like wings, and the diamond on his pinky shone as if it were crowned in a halo. He walked in to Major’s...

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Shelf Life

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pp. 92-108

Her question jolted me as much as the two Scotties and beagle I walked everyday. I halfheartedly tugged at their leashes, but the dogs were too revved up to stop. Mac made strangled, gagging noises as he lunged with his jaw to bite a mouthful of air as if it were a jumbo sandwich. Tosh was jumping up on her hind legs, her front paws...

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Freezer Burn

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pp. 109-125

Sophia takes one look at the ball of our Sicilian great grandmother’s starter dough she pulls out of the freezer and mumbles two words: freezer burn. I know my sister will blame me if we can’t get it to rise....

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Roman Arches

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pp. 126-138

A Lucille Ball fan club with thousands of members still meets every year. There’s a museum and film festival in her native Jamestown, New York and a tour of the I Love Lucy set in Hollywood. My mother hasn’t been to any of these, but she’s the most devoted fan there is: She thinks she’s Lucy Ricardo....

E-ISBN-13: 9780299212834
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299212841

Publication Year: 2005