I am writing from Parma, where we have been for nearly a year, because of COVID 19. A new edition of Mother Tongue was issued in March 2020, in NYC, but for that celebration, as for many others, because travel was suddenly impossible, it didn't take place. These long months have heightened a sense of interconnectedness with others all over the world, even as we isolated. In the suffering, losses, and common experiences, great disparities in resources and priorities have become even more apparent. New urgency has been added to writers' tasks. How can we open dialogues showing the sky over us all?
* 2020 Edition *
Foreword by Patricia Hampl and Preface by the Author
Mother Tongue, An American Life in Italy, describing WWM's early years living in Parma, was published in a new edition by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 2020. In the two decades since it first appeared, it has become "an underground literary classic." "Passionate, sensuous, even fierce," (Kirkus Review) it provides "at one and the same time, a rounded picture of a city and of a woman describing the flow of life itself...as in a symphony." (Gazzetta di Parma). Framed by Patricia Hampl's introduction and a foreword by the author, the book animates, in a completely original way, the complexity of country and a sense of self.
Tim Parks observes: "Mother Tongue is a sustained and generous meditation on difference, the discovery of oneself and one's own culture through the urgent need to come to terms with another. Few writers have savored Italy so intimately and intelligently...". Frances Mayes, whose books have led so many readers to travel to Italy, wrote in her latest work, "I read further into (WWM's) book about living in Parma, realizing at every page that her roots show how a visitor like me only treads the surface of the place."
The Paris Review online
An Attentive Memoir of Life in Parma
By Patricia Hampl March 20, 2020
READ THE REVIEW >
REVIEWS FROM EARLIER EDITIONS of Mother Tongue
"Richly absorbing...Part autobiography and part travelogue...(with) drama, enchantment, and grist."
--The New Yorker
"Wilde-Menozzi is passionate, sensuous, even fierce...Life, death, politics, language, art, books, food and love commingle on the page. Evocative and moving."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"She treats her reader to wonderful set pieces on varied subjects, including a deeply felt meditation on the life of Giovanna Piacenza, a heroic 16th century abbess; an amusing and affectionate look at the elaborate culture surrounding the local bread; a recounting of the lurid gossip concerning Verdi's personal life."
--The New York Times
"This book is a large, beautiful window into the intelligent, literate, reflective life of Italy--intimately lived and observed by a modern American woman. A wise and delightful work, admirable in its synthesis of understanding, independence, and rare humility."
--Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus
"In the age of confessional memoir...Wilde-Menozzi's intellect and literary risk-taking are to be admired."
--Kathleen Veslany, Creative Nonfiction
"It is in the confrontation of the cultures and in (its) restless questioning about how one should live one's life, that Mother Tongue shows its strength."
--Constance John, Books in Canada
"The depth of understanding Wallis Wilde-Menozzi has acquired about Italy is striking."
--Francesca Avanzini-Gazzetta di Parma
"Written with empathy and vivid insight, this is a memoir that acknowledges the difficulties as well as the possibilities for self-enlargement."
--Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation
"A warm and wonderful book. The author's powers of observation are extraordinary. WWM is to be commended both for her profound understanding of (multicultural) tensions and for her exceptional Virginia Woolf-like subtlety in presenting them."
--McGills Literary Annual List
"If I had to choose among them (Mary McCarthy's Stones of Florence, Barbara Grissuti Harrison's Italian Days, or Wilde-Menozzi's Mother Tongue) I'd take Mother Tongue. This woman can write."
--Lois Blinkhorn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel