Tony Ardizzone

Writer • Teacher • Editor


In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu

Critically acclaimed novelist and short story writer Tony Ardizzone makes a sumptuous and lively contribution to a rich body of American immigration literature with In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu, a lyrical, poignant, and magical novel about a large Sicilian family’s emigration to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century.
Dreaming of freedom from a life of brute servitude, hard labor, and debt to a tyrannical landlord, Papa Santuzzu and his wife, Adriana, push their beloved children to immigrate to La Merica, the Land of Opportunity. In his “wild and giddy” imagination, Papa Santuzzu ardently believes in the ease of attaining the American Dream, the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all, and rests assured that his children will thrive in this great nation of abundance. Following the painful, yet exuberant, process of the children’s displacement from their homeland and relocation in Papa Santuzzu’s conceived lush “faraway garden,” Ardizzone’s novel re-imagines the meaning of such a journey, where every obvious gain entails some unforeseen sacrifice.
A loving tribute to Sicilian American culture, In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu resounds with the traditional folklore and songs of Sicily, implanting within our hearts a vibrant and compassionate perspective of the struggles, joys, and proliferation of diasporic communities in modern America. In their earnest exodus to America, Papa Santuzzu's children arduously clear away the weeds and briars in what seems like a vast and rugged wilderness, managing to cultivate their own unknown, yet nonetheless beautiful, version of their Papa’s paradisaical vision -- building, at last, a home away from home.
Here is a rich and vibrant novel about the stories families tell each other, stories that make up a deeply personal and common history.
     ---Picador USA jacket copy

"The author must have sat at the knees of beloved grandmothers and aunts to learn these tales....At the end we feel we’ve sat at the table of a family that has lived the transformation of the Old World into the New in every fiber of their bones."
     --- Chicago Tribune

"Gathered around a metaphorical campfire, the members of the extended Girgenti clan take turns regaling us in this robust, beguiling novel about family and the immigrant experience in the first half of the 20th century....The cumulative effect is of a kind of Sicilian Canterbury Tales, rich with fable and folklore and religion."
     --- Publishers Weekly

"Tony Ardizzone has a blazing imagination, and makes the everyday struggles and joys of the Santuzzu family into a magical, moving novel of Italian-American life in the early part of the century. Steeped in the history of the times, it's a book to be read slowly and savored."
     --- Culture Watch

"Ardizzone's third novel is not your typical immigrant story. When the seven children of Papa Santuzzu emigrate from rural Sicily to La Merica, they do so one or two or three at a time. This allows Ardizzone, better known for short stories, to travel back and forth in time and geography, relating magical homeland stories as preludes to immigrant realism....Ardizzone's fascinating work is an intriguing addition to the smallish group of Italian immigration novels. More literary than literal, the book reads as if told by ghosts around an open fire."
     --- Library Journal

"Tony Ardizzone's In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu is a remarkable literary achievement that will likely prove the definitive novel of the massive Sicilian immigration to the United States in the early 1900s....Since family members are presented as gathered around an imaginary campfire, the novel becomes a kind of Sicilian-American version of Boccaccio's Decameron, with intertwining narratives. Further, employing evocative poetic language, Ardizzone skillfully blends stark naturalism with imaginative fantasy, as he infuses his immigration novel with elements of Sicilian folklore (benevolent witches, talking animals, an enchanted eel, a ewe that gives birth to thousands of human daughters, a princess who will not laugh, and even the mythic figure of Guifà)....Brilliantly inspired, then, not only by historical studies, such as Jerre Mangione and Ben Morreale's La Storia: Five Centuries of the Italian American Experience but also by a wide range of Sicilian, Italian, and American literary and folkloric sources, In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu will doubtless take a rightful place among such classic works of Italian American fiction as Pietro Di Donato's Christ in Concrete, Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim, and Helen Barolini's Umbertina."
     --- Sicilia Parra

"Lusty, whimsical, and reverent....Like tributaries into a slow and endless river, [the characterrs'] stories merge with Old World folktales, Catholic miracle lore, and the darker realities of American history."
     -- The Indianapolis Star

"Not since Pietro Di Donato's Christ in Concrete (1939) have we had a novel so rich in language, so strong in story, so vivid in its telling, and so filled with history that it can be read over and over again. In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu should be required reading for everyone who is or knows an American of Italian descent."
     -- Fra Noi