Kirkus Reviews QR Code
FIRST WORD by Rosetta Loy


A Memoir

by Rosetta Loy, translated by Gregory Conti

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2000
ISBN: 0-8050-6258-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

Novelist Rosetta Loy grew up in a sophisticated Catholic family in Italy in the 1930s. As a child she was told that Jews did not baptize, but instead cut off part of a boy’s flesh with scissors. Many of her neighbors were Jewish: there was Signora Della Seta (a kindly gray-haired lady who often gave Rosetta presents) and the Levis (the noisy piano- and soccer-playing family upstairs). Loy describes the other things she learned about Jews growing up: they had to wear yellow stars on their arms, they could not go to certain schools or hold certain jobs, and eventually they were shipped off to camps and gassed to death. She writes of her own family’s blindness to their neighbors’ fate, and of the heroism of other Catholic Italians—like the couple who ran a whorehouse and kept a gaggle of Jewish children alive in the basement through the war, sharing their pitiful rations with them and protecting them from the authorities. Though there is little in Loy’s memoir that can’t be found in a dozen other Holocaust autobiographies, the author’s elegant and spare prose distinguishes her from the others.