Book Reviews and Interviews

PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

After numerous visits to Italy, Haid found herself increasingly enamored with the country, so she decided to move to Locri, Calabria, to teach English and fully immerse herself in Italian culture. Haid’s book recounts her four-year stint in Calabria with an intoxicating blend of humor, joy, and reverence for this area in Italy’s deep south. The book reads like a travelogue, with long descriptions of train rides and encounters, but it also serves as a travel guide, with many facts and figures integrated into the narrative. Haid does not shy away from mentioning the negatives of Calabrian culture. Much of these are approached with humor, with the exception of the more disturbing aspects of the local community, such as the power of omertà (the code or conspiracy silence that protects outlaws) and the influence of the Calabrian mafia over local politics and other community affairs. The chapters about criminal activity are broken up into two sections and separated by other chapters, and this deft organization preserves the predominantly upbeat and inspiring mood of tour into a lesser-known part of Italy. (BookLife)

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Calabria: The Other Italy is part history, part travel guide, part memoir — and as informed and informative as it is engaging and entertaining, making it very highly recommended for community and academic library collections, as well as the personal reading lists for non-specialist general readers with an interest in this inherently fascinating provincial section of Italy. (Bookwatch)

AMBASSADOR – Magazine of the National Italian American Foundation

In a charming and refreshingly honest recounting of her time spent teaching English in Italy, Karen Haid’s Calabria: The Other Italy offers what many other books on Italy don’t: an unfiltered portrayal of an American adjusting to life in the sometimes quirky, loud and beautiful regions of southern Italy.

The story of a newcomer in a small, Italian town is not an original one. But Haid’s description of the town of Locri, her experiences teaching the local Italians, and her struggles with the Italian postal service feel fresh.

Even more intriguing is the region where Haid decides to live. Much
 has been written about Italy from the streets of Florence, Venice and Rome. Few venture to the toe of Italy’s boot, where Calabria lies often forgotten despite its stunning coastlines and eccentric people. Haid offers the perfect combination of personal experiences with Calabrians, and the history and culture of the region. Admirably,
 she avoids romanticized depictions, presenting Calabria in all of its gritty, chaotic glory–which only adds to the beauty of her storytelling. (Danielle DeSimone)

PRIMO Italian American Magazine

Calabria: The Other Italy is a phenomenal book that captures the heart and soul of one of Italy’s most obscure and attractive regions. PRIMO enthusiastically recommends the book to all Italian Americans and those who have a passion for Italy.

FRA NOI – BOSTONIANO

This book combines a personal memoir with a travel guide, as the author interweaves her own experiences and observations with information on Calabria’s history and points of interest…. If your family originated in Calabria, this book will make you proud of the region’s rich history and its tough, much-put-upon people.

WOMEN ON THE ROAD Travel Website

When I started reading this book, all I knew about Calabria was pizza calabrese. Now it’s on my list of places to visit!

ORNA O’REILLY: Travelling Italy

This book is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Italy beyond the romantic descriptions of blue seas and skies …. written in a highly readable and amusing style …. Karen writes affectionately about the friendly Calabrians ….  (Read full Calabria: The Other Italy book review.)

FAME DI SUD

Article in Italian: Calabria: l’Altra Italia raccontata dall’autrice statunitense Karen Haid


READER COMMENTS

Book Reviews for Calabria: The Other Italy

Calabria: The Other Italy by Karen Haid

“I very much enjoyed this lovely book about Calabria. If ever I should travel there this book will be under my arm at all times. I enjoyed meeting the locals and visiting the ancients on so many levels. You painted a lovely picture of the land and sea, and your wry wit made me laugh out loud. A huge undertaking well worth the effort. Loved it.”     Patsy from Las Vegas

“I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Calabria: The other Italy. My parents grew up in the region and I found myself feeling both moved and entertained as I read. Thank you for writing such an informed and honest book that raises an awareness of the region.”      Mimi from Toronto

“I got my copy on Friday evening, and once started, I find it difficult to put down! I hardly knew you in Reggio and didn’t expect a sense of humour so similar to my own. As in the Mac advert, “I’m lovin’ it”! I found your post office adventures hilarious! Seriously though, I think you’ve really caught the essence of Calabria, my adopted homeland.”     Janet from Reggio Calabria


INTERVIEW at Channel 95, Lake Wildwood, California, click here for video of Interview with Author Karen Haid.

INTERVIEW WITH PRIMO Italian American magazine

first appeared on February 26, 2015 at http://www.onlineprimo.com.

NEW BOOK GIVES FRESH ACCOUNT OF CALABRIA

Karen Haid’s “Calabria: The Other Italy,” is a fascinating new book that gives a firsthand, contemporary account of Calabria. 

Karen taught English in Calabria for four years, first in Locri, a small town there and then Reggio, the largest city in the region, located on the Strait of Messina. She was not a stranger to Italy since she had spent considerable time in a number of Italian cities. Wanting to stay in Italy, she gained a teaching job at a private language school in Locri, a small town in Calabria. To learn more about Karen and “Calabria: The Other Italy,” please visit her web site at www.calabriatheotheritaly.com. 

PRIMO interviewed Karen about her new book and her thoughts and observations on Calabria.

Why did you title your book, “The Other Italy,” in reference to Calabria?

Most people have a clear picture in their mind’s eye when they think of Italy. For some it’s food, for others it’s family. Many visualize one of the country’s famous monuments or panoramas. But what image does Calabria conjure? Or does it evoke anything at all?

This region that fills out the toe of the Italian boot is off the radar for most visitors to Italy and largely unknown even to its fellow countrymen. Both Italians and non regularly ask me, “But why Calabria?” I often respond, “Why not Calabria?” It is a land whose potential is yet to be achieved. It’s waiting to be discovered and explored. Calabria is an Italy less traveled, the “other Italy.”

What did you find “different” about Calabria from other regions where you also worked and lived?

One of the first things that struck me stepping on or off a train, for example, was that if I faltered or appeared to be struggling in any way with my bag, there was always someone there to lend a hand. This is not the norm in Rome and points further north. Motivations may be disputed; however, it won’t get your suitcase carried up the steps for you.

Although Italy has been a unified nation for a relatively short period of time, Italians up and down the boot do share many personality traits. Even so, there will always be those who focus on dissimilarities, particularly between the north and south. Thus said, one particularly noteworthy characteristic of Calabrians is their steadfast determination, which goes hand in hand with an emphasis on life’s essentials.

If the natural world were the judge, Calabria would definitely win the prize. Dramatic coastlines with beautiful beaches, quaint hamlets and excellent food are par for the course in Italy. But the bergamot? If there’s ever need for proof that the region is unique, this citrus would be it, as nowhere else in the world does this remarkable fruit truly flourish.

When we think of Mount Etna, we think of Sicily. Yet, you write how the Sicilian volcano had as much impact, if not more, on you and the people of Reggio di Calabria. Please explain.

Mount Etna looms large for the people of Reggio (the Reggini). To tell you the truth, the first time I saw the volcano from the train window as I rounded the tip of the peninsula and up the coast towards Reggio, I was surprised. It hadn’t crossed my mind that it would have been so close to Calabria. I certainly wouldn’t want to take anything away from the good citizens of Sicily who not only have gorgeous views of the volcano but are also graced with the wonderful agricultural products grown in the soil enriched by its ash. Suffice it to say, however, that for the Reggini, Mt. Etna together with the Sicilian coast and the Strait of Messina compose a spectacular picture-postcard view. Frequently cited by the media, writer Gabriele d’Annunzio defined Reggio’s seaside promenade as “il più bel chilometro d’Italia” (Italy’s most beautiful kilometer).

Please tell us about the number of dialects and hybrid languages you experienced in Calabria.

Language is an interesting and complex topic. Before moving to Calabria, I had studied Italian for many years and had attained a fairly advanced level, but the first time I went to the fruit and vegetable market I felt as though I was back to square one. Luckily for me, physical gestures and facial expressions featured prominently on that occasion!

I quickly learned that dialects were very much alive in Calabria. In fact, many families speak exclusively in dialect at home. And although the dialects spoken within the region’s borders are referred to as Calabrian (or Calabrese, in Italian), they vary greatly, reflecting the region’s rich history. While having Latin origins, southern Calabrian dialects have a greater Greek influence and have more in common with those in Sicily. And understandably, northern Calabrian leans towards the Neapolitan dialect, or so I’ve been told. Struggling to make heads or tails of the utterances of a friendly seat companion while riding public transportation, I admittedly wasn’t focused on how the past tense had been constructed. Likewise, when I’d flip to one of the regional TV channels that was always presenting locally produced theater pieces in a Calabrian dialect.

Calabria also has pockets of three other languages: a Grecanic or type of Greek in the Province of Reggio Calabria; Arbëreshë or a form of Albanian found predominantly in the Province of Cosenza; and Guardiolo, an Occitan (French-based) language in one small northern town. The diversity is mind-boggling. Created by colonization, various dominations and incursions, these languages still exist in large part due to geographical isolation. My teenaged English students were proud of their dialect. Every so often, they’d share an expression that perfectly encapsulated the situation at hand. Fifty or a hundred miles away, other students were probably using different expressions. For a region with just two million inhabitants, there certainly is a lot of diversity.

You mention a number of writers, such as yourself, not native to Calabria, that felt a profound love for the region. What is it about the region that is so appealing to outsiders?

The writers I quote in my book were real adventurers. If Calabria is off the beaten path today, it was even more so 100-200 years ago when these hearty souls visited the region. These explorers went well beyond the European “Grand Tour.” They weren’t the sort of travelers that were looking to be coddled. Although they came from the educated and well-to-do classes and knew their way around a drawing room, they engaged in active, in-depth travel that included thorough acquaintance with the language and customs. Incredibly, they often traveled by foot. These individuals took the time to look past the surface, to meet the locals and to really appreciate whatever they came across. Like any place, you can visit Calabria by checking off the major sites, and be on your way. Many people do. A quick glance at the unparalleled Riace Bronzes in Reggio’s Archeological Museum, a few nights in Tropea, its best-known resort town, a couple plates of pasta and a hunk of pecorino and a few salami for the road. As another stop on the “Grand Tour,” the visitor wouldn’t be disappointed. However, those who slow the pace and really smell the roses or the pasta sauce along the way will find that Calabria has a way of getting under their skin.


Did you enjoy reading these Book Reviews and Interviews, and interested in learning more about this fascinating southern Italian region? 

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