Tony Ardizzone

Writer • Teacher • Editor


As part of the growing interest in Italy in North American writers of Italian descent, University of Rome Tor Vergata Professor Elisabetta Marino talks with Tony Ardizzone. The pair discuss his Moroccan travels and subsequent collection of Moroccan short stories as well as his novels In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu and The Whale Chaser, whose plot is complicated by una storia segreta, or "secret history” of the internment of Italians and Italian Americans during the Second World War. The interview appeared in 2017 in the international series Writers in Conversation, an online literary journal specializing in well-researched, in-depth interviews with writers in all literary genres (including criticism), concentrating on their work, their ideas, and related matters, published by Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia.


One of the most delightful compliments a writer could receive was a phone call from Derek Alger to set up an interview. From 2001 until his untimely death thirteen years later, the indefatigable Alger wrote over 150 intriguing essays and interviews for Pif Magazine, now available in Pif’s online Derek Alger Archive. Here Alger discusses Tony Ardizzone's Chicago Roman Catholic roots and uncovers the story behind Ardizzone's involvement with what the press called the "Champaign 39,” a group of professors, graduate students, and undergrads who were arrested during a peaceful antiwar sit-in in 1971 at the University of Illinois, and how the arrests and the university’s response to the action had a profound effect on the protesters' lives.


In this interview in Il Regno/Magna Grece, an ethno-cultural journal for people of Southern Italian descent, Olivia Kate Cerrone and Tony Ardizzone discuss the theme of dislocation in his writing, particularly in his two most recent novels, The Whale Chaser and In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu, and how his fiction is influenced by his study of ethnic American literature. Ardizzone reveals the three cards he feels life dealt him to play as a writer. He and Cerrone also talk about the racist theories put forward by the eugenicist Madison Grant in his 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race (a book embraced by Adolf Hitler, who called the text "my Bible"), and how Grant’s argument that Italians and other Mediterraneans were 'racially unfit' influenced America's laws regulating immigration.


Shannon R. Wooden, Professor of English at Missouri State University and co-author of Pixar’s Boy Stories: Masculinity in a Postmodern Age, talks with Ardizzone about how his work participates in the larger issues of cultural conversation. They discuss the motif of twins in Ardizzone’s work (and how twins are like rhyming in poetry: sameness but with a difference) as well the magic realism in In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu. Ardizzone relates a story about his mother and a living-room lamp that would turn on and off without being touched for months after his father's death. Their conversation turns to interconnected collections of short stories and how the form differs from the traditional novel, and they end their conversation with observations about the challenges of integrating the habit of writing with the ongoing demands of one’s work and life.


Here Ardizzone talks about his early books, with a focus on his Moroccan stories and his novel In the Garden of Papa Santuzzu. The conversation begins with the roles folklore and religion play in his work, particularly in his chapter "The Black Madonna," in which the Virgin Mary appears to one of the book's characters. Ardizzone discusses how his experiences in Morocco led to his work on Sicily, admitting that several Moroccan beliefs seemed similar to those held by his family, who emigrated from Sicily's North African, or Arab, face. He admits that throughout all his years of schooling he was never once assigned to read any piece of fiction written by an Italian American. This early interview was conducted by John King, author, academic, and host of The Drunken Odyssey: A Podcast About the Writing Life, and Numsiri Kunakemakorn, Professor of Secondary Education at Utah Valley University.