The Association of Italian-Canadian Writers (AICW) held its biennial conference at the University of Torino, in Torino, Italy, from September 28 to October 1, 2022. The conference, which was originally planned for 2020, was twice delayed due to the Covid pandemic. With the effects of the pandemic waning and travel restrictions lifted, association members were able to come together last fall. During the four days of readings, presentations and discussions, speakers shared their narratives, family histories, accounts of comings and goings, achievements and failures, celebrations and grief – all feeling enriched by the experience.
While the process of integration of Italians in Canada is on going and despite the real difficulties many Italian immigrants faced in the past, the community is thriving – not only in economic terms, but also from a cultural perspective. In no other country, with the possible exception of the United States, has Italian migration produced such a rich body of literary work. Italian-Canadian writers have succeeded in maintaining a strong cultural identity, and have captured the history of their migration story from their own perspective.
The title of the conference, The Traces We Leave: Italian-Canadians and Their Works, captures the diversity of the works presented, which included research projects, essays, memoirs, prose, poetry and plays. These “traces,” as keynote speaker Oriana Palusci observed during her opening remarks on the first day of the conference, were often carried in a wooden trunk or “baule.” The wooden trunk remains a symbol of the immigrant experience, enclosing the meagre possessions that immigrants brought with them when they set off into the unknown, full of hope for a better future for themselves and the generations that would come.
The readings and presentations conveyed the various shades of the Italian-Canadian immigration and integration experience, whose protagonists are now the second, third and even fourth generation Italian Canadians. The ethos of the conference was perhaps captured by a question from a member of the audience on the first day of the conference who asked how the discrimination faced by early Italian immigrants to Canada compares with the discrimination that African immigrants to Italy face today. While the answer to such a question remains illusive, the question conveys the reality that narratives and conversations about migration, acceptance and integration, are timeless.
Thanks go to Carmen Concilio, professor in the Department of Foreign Languages, Literatures and Modern Cultures of the University of Torino, host and principal organizer of the conference.
The conference participants were: John Calabro, Licia Canton, Mirko Casagranda, Maria Giuseppina Cesari, Anna Ciardullo Villapiana, Giuliana Colalillo, Carmen Concilio, Domenic Cusmano, Michaela Di Cesare, Nino Famà, Genni Gunn, Rosina Martucci, Carmelo Militano, Lianne Moyes, Diane Pacitti, Oriana Palusci, Cristina Pepe, Vincenzo Pietropaolo, Margherita Piva, Marisa Portolese, Anna Romano Milne, Rosetta Rosati, Maria Cristina Seccia, Maria Pia Spadafora.
Arianna Chirico and Maria Costanza Rinaldi are students at the University of Torino.