Bruna Di Giuseppe-Bertoni is one of the most multi-faceted and fun-loving writers in Toronto today. She is a very active member of the Italian-Canadian writing and arts community, spreading her infectious humour and positivity wherever she goes and in all of her work. She has won international awards for her poetry, and writes passionately about life, love and family in both Italian and English. Most recently, she has written her first children’s book entitled, I Call My Grandmother Nonna. It is a wonderful series of stories about a young girl and her relationship with her nonna. The book will have two launches in Toronto. Please try and attend them to meet the energetic author in-person. The first launch will be held at The Chapters in Woodbridge on June 11, 2016 from 2:00PM to 4:00PM. The second launch will be held at the Rainbow Caterpillar Multilingual Bookstore on June 25, 2016 from 1:30PM to 2:30PM.
Where does writing come from for you?
I started writing because of my father’s examples, as a little girl I always saw him writing something or reading. He would copy poems and stories and practice how they were written and he would read to us out loud. He was a storyteller, we had no television and he later purchased a radio when I was 12. Before that he would tell stories and read from books. He taught himself how to read and write during the Second World War in Libya. He encouraged his children to write stories and he would say a word and we had to find a word that rhymed. My brother was quicker than me. Always!
Tell us about the journey of writing your first book of poetry, Sentieri D’Italia.
It wasn’t until six years after my father died and 17 years after my brother’s drowning accident that I returned to Italy and was able to start writing down notes of feelings and the loss of all things I left behind when I came to Canada. In some short poems and notes I was able to release the deep sadness and sorrows I had for years. Sentieri D’Italia was published in 2001.
What was it like to win a poetry award in Italy?
A great feeling of achievement and a self-recognition that I could call myself a writer and a poet.
What is your first children’s book about?
It’s about how Franca and her nonna spend time together – a collection of stories about Franca and her nonna’s adventures; going out visiting a friend, cooking lunch, finding out where her nonna comes from and helping her in the garden. The book is written in English with some conversation in Italian.
Was it difficult to write for children?
It was difficult when I had to choose what age the book would be appropriate for.
You have been a very active member of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers, why do you think this organization is important for Canadian literature?
The organization has contributed so much to Canadian literature through books written by Italian Canadian writers where they share their life, experiences, traditions, culture and history of Italian emigration to Canada. Members of the association are also instrumental in writing interesting projects like In Justice Served, the story of B.C. Italians considered enemy aliens during World War II.
You immigrated to Canada in 1964. How does your Italian heritage influence your art and your writing?
Back then, everyone who came before or after 1964 was going to be influenced regardless. When we came, we lived with our relatives who only spoke Italian, we went shopping at Darrigo’s and didn’t have much to do. We spoke Italian at home and English was not allowed. Everything I do is influenced by my culture – to answer your question I am influenced more in my writing than in my art. Art for me is whatever I see as beauty I paint and in Ontario the scenery is endless… so I like to paint many Northern Ontario scenes.
You also work with many elderly Italian Canadians. Does this work help with your art and writing in any way?
Mostly my writing. I have written a few things about the elderly and I hope to be able to do more.
You have an amazing love of life and wonderful sense of humour. Have you ever thought of writing comedy or humorous fiction?
I enjoy my life and I have to thank my father for this. He was the funniest man – funny but in Italian. I will carry on in Italian and be funny – in English I can’t even laugh at some jokes because I don’t get them. If I happen to be together with a funny Italian person we can joke for hours. I miss my father for that. He had a funny answer for everything.
What advice do you have for young writers who are trying to write about their background and heritage?
I’d say – tell stories of your grandparents and their ways and traditions that they have passed down to you. Write about food and even traditions that are no longer practiced but remembered.
What are you thinking of writing next?
I want to write about my father and a card game he and his friends played when we lived in Rome – they played a game with cards called la passatella. You might know about this but I lived it. Among the men it was a very serious game.