#9 The road from Catania
a journey to Sicily
I thought I'd give you a little background on my travel memoir before I start sending the next weekly segment.
Sicilian Descent has undergone several manifestations, as most books do. At first, I wanted it to be about the different Sicilian Villages that migrants left behind, simply because I love visiting these ancient places. Each Sicilian paese has its character, and I wanted an excuse to go and see as many as possible. But that idea was too self-indulgent and general.
As I began to blog and share my experiences from Sicily, first on a dubiously titled blog called Unwilling Expat and then on Sicily Inside and Out, I honed my experiences into a personal essay style I think people like. Looking back at the most popular posts on all my blogs, they are dedicated to personal experiences.
Sicily has been my obsession for decades, and I think I have read almost everything written by Sicilian authors and foreigners. From history books to guide books and other memoirs. So I think this research and loving obsession have helped to add detail to the reader.
After a decade of writing, research, redrafting and endless editing, I finally finished Sicilian Descent two years ago. Before and during the pandemic, I have been working with an editor to polish it up for potential publishers.
I realised that it probably would never find a publisher as it is a particular kind of niche publication. Rather than having my memoir rejected by publishers who don't know or care, I thought I might give it to my readers who do. Hence my idea to start a paid newsletter with this as a treat for anyone who loves Sicily and who is looking for a truthful portrayal of life on this island.
Another problem with publishing my memoir was my general dedication to truth. Italy is probably the most idealised place in the world. It shouldn't be because together with the food, wine, and beauty, there is also much ugliness, like corruption and organised crime. So I don't think my gritty and truthfully sad portrayal of Sicily would sit very comfortably with Under the Tuscan Sun or Eat, Pray, Love and other commercial publications about Italy. It is a very different book and reflects my family's connection to Sicily.
Also, Sicily is probably one of the most popular subjects for writers and intellectuals. Many famous writers have visited and written about the island's culture and politics. At one stage, when I pitched my book as a non-fiction work, one publisher said, have you read Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb? As if to say his book was the definitive Sicily travel memoir. Peter Robb-s book is incredible, profoundly intellectual and is one of the best depictions of Sicilian politics, corruption and organised crime; I should probably read it after the recent arrest of the Mafia Boss Messina Denaro. But Midnight in Sicily isn't the only book that can be written about the island.
What Sicilian Descent is about is my own personal, strange and, at times, an awkward journey during my first few years living in Sicily. I shared a lot of myself and even some uncomfortable situations to make something honest and genuine.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
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