At the request of the legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead, the author undertakes a social-science research project in her parents’ native land.
The mountainous and rugged countryside–known as Petralia Soprana, nestled within the Madonie Mountains in north-central Sicily–consists of a cluster of hamlets with varying degrees of prosperity, depending on the extent of reciprocal contact with the outside world and the geographical barriers that impede cultural exchange. Danna’s chronicle is a charming story of her experiences growing up as a second-generation Italian immigrant in New York City, and the cultural shock to her modern sensibilities caused by the traditional values espoused by her relatives, who adhere to a feudal mentality conditioned by centuries of serfdom. For example, women must perform their outdoor tasks while facing the house, but men are free to look out toward the road. The first half of the narrative is autobiographical, while the second half provides Danna’s analysis of the inhabitants of the various hamlets within Petralia Soprana, and her efforts to run a special school for needy gifted boys. Despite the author’s tendency to become repetitious, her straightforward, conversational style–refreshingly free of heavy academic language–will keep readers involved.
A fascinating analysis of the tension between traditional and modern values.