Publication Date: August 2018
English: 172 pages
$25.00 Canada, US
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In a darkened cinema a little boy laughs at a Marx Brothers’ movie and spits out roasted pumpkin seed shells. The next day, in fields near the Salerno War Cemetery, he and his friends gather empty rifle shells. They will sell these to the scrap dealer who visits the refugee camp where they live.
“A River of Oranges, Aldo Nazarko’s remarkable memoir of a childhood in occupied Italy, is a beautiful study in the contrasts that occur when everyday life carries on through the fog of war: bombs fall, and children are born; mouthwatering meals are prepared, while families scrabble to make do with food shortages; alliances and borders shift, while children continue to play — sometimes by emptying the gunpowder from rifle bullets and setting them ablaze. This is an important and heartrending accounting about a childhood in wartime, at a time and in a place little understood outside of Italy: the years after the Italian armistice when former allies become enemies, and the great postwar Italian diaspora began. This is Canada’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.”
– Terri Favro, author of Sputnik’s Children, Once Upon A Time in West Toronto and Generation Robot.
“Reminiscent of Dylan Thomas’s memoir A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Aldo Nazarko’s A River of Oranges: Memories of a Displaced Childhood trades Thomas’s simpler, more innocent era for a darker time of war, refugee camps, loss and uncertainty. Nazarko’s fluid prose triggers our senses as he immerses us in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of his childhood and his family’s exodus from the Adriatic city of Fiume after it became part of Yugoslavia. Intelligent. Evocative. Captivating.”
– Tricia Dower, author of Silent Girl, Stony River and Becoming Lin
From a boisterous extended Italian family living under one roof, the Nazarko family became “displaced persons” at the end of World War II. For four years the family moved from one refugee camp to another, before emigrating to Canada in 1951. With few possessions and little money, Aldo’s parents still managed to forge a good childhood for their three sons. This memoir is a testament to their resourcefulness and devotion.
At its heart, A River of Oranges is a love letter from one man to his father – full of forgiveness, shining with joy, and brimming with tender gratitude.
A River of Oranges: Memories of a Displaced Childhood tells the story of a boy and his family and how they live through the traumas of war and exile. Aldo Nazarko recounts his journey from birth to adolescence, from a city in what is now Croatia, through ten refugee camps, to Port Arthur in Canada. He brings to light a forgotten history and a lost culture. His early years are haunted by danger, disruption, and the repeated loss of close friends and family, yet this memoir is punctuated by notes of grace. The author shows the beautiful places he saw, as well as the squalid ones. He evokes the carefree hours of childhood and its small pleasures – a new comic book, or an extra piece of hazelnut-chocolate. This book is a gift, as unexpected and satisfying as a river of oranges to a deprived and thirsty boy.
– Caterina Edwards, author of Finding Rosa and The Sicilian Wife.