The first women’s strike in Europe: the jasmine-pickers of Milazzo

They rose at midnight and took to the fields, barefoot. At night, because the sun turned the petals yellow. Children, forbidden but necessary, entered the fields hidden between their mothers’ skirts. Infants were tucked, drowsy with the scent, in wicker baskets; older daughters plucked the white flowers with nimble fingers, taught by their mothers. Ten … Continue reading

The Sicilian Language

The Sicilian Language

Just like Sicilian heritage sites and architecture, the Sicilian language displays the imprint of its many dominations. Being the largest island in the Mediterranean, most Mediterranean peoples stopped by: Phoenicians to the ancient Greeks, Romans to the Saracens, Normans, French, Aragonese and Spanish. These days, locals use Sicilian mostly to tell jokes or express anger. … Continue reading

Giufà

Giufà

When I mention that I’m writing a book set in Sicily, some people recommend Sicilian books or writers to read. Giuseppe Pitrè, the best known writer/collector of Sicilian folktales, often comes up. One of the most famous characters in his writings is Giufà, a character of Sicilian folklore, a kind of “village fool” whose anecdotes … Continue reading

Il carretto siciliano

Il carretto siciliano

Sicilian carts turn up in the most unexpected places. This one is in the castle in Milazzo. They are a work of art. The sides and base depict scenes from Sicilian folklore and history in bright reds and yellows, the colours of the Sicilian flag. Apparently they were first crafted in the late 1700s when … Continue reading

Montalbano

Montalbano

No, not the Inspector! Montalbano Elicona: Secret gardens, ancient streets, old doors and the megalithic stones of Argimusco near Montalbano, now ranked among Italy’s most beautiful Borgos. Montalbano has a role in my next book which is set in Sicily, a family saga which takes place on the streets of another Sicilian Borgo – the … Continue reading

Centenary of the Armenian Genocide

Centenary of the Armenian Genocide

In honour of the centenary of the Armenian genocide, the Guardian has published true stories of some genocide descendants. You can read more in Water Will Find its Way, inspired by the true story of an Armenian genocide survivor.

World Cup divides Brazil

World Cup divides Brazil

Some kids from FAVELA Chapéu Mangueira once stole my friend’s camera on nearby COPACABANA beach. Now the favela is one of the 50 out of 1000 favelas to have been “pacified” in time for the World Cup by Special Unit Police … For “pacified”, read: brutal deaths, eviction and abuse of power… The World Cup … Continue reading

Maya Angelou – an inspiration

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace…” Her son, Guy B. Jonson Her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings brought her international recognition and infused the genre with new energy. It was an indictment of the racial discrimination she … Continue reading

A thousand years of solitude

“A thousand years of solitude and sadness after the death of the greatest Colombian of all time” – Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia. Called “Castro’s courtesan” by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, and “one of the greatest writers of our time” by Enrique Pena Nieto, president of Mexico – the writer’s adopted home – … Continue reading