Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Faith and Mercy

December 13, 2007

I want to share with you a beautifully written paragraph from my cousin’s book, Mercy. Brief background: Anna, the Italian journalist who witnesses all sorts of horrors in Africa, is struggling to understand how God could allow such immense suffering. The other character, Kez, is an Egyptian Muslim. Although Kez has his addictions, he is a man of faith.

When Anna slips a note under Kez’s hotel room door saying, “Predator, victim! Parasite, host! Canine distemper! Surely there could be finer mechanisms that these! Surely God can do better than this!” Kez replies:

“What do you know of the life of the neutron? What do you know of the circuitry of the brain? What can you tell me of the balance struck between electricity and magnetism? Which insights can you provide into the event horizon of a black hole? Tell me: what do you know of music of numbers, the clarity of water, the human eye? You know nothing. You sin through pride, my sweet friend. You sin through pride: the deepest, the darkest, the Original sin.”

He was far less castigatory in person. “Allah is great. You’re not. End of story.”

Mercy, by Lara Santoro is available in hardcover and paperback.


Mercy by Lara Santoro

August 31, 2007

My cousin’s book was mentioned on page 248 of the September issue of O magazine. I’m hoping that Oprah reads the book and has Lara on her show.

“Africa–anguished, impoverished, monstrously beautiful–takes the measure of every novelist daring enough to confront its mysteries. Lara Santoro’s Mercy (Other Press) swirls around a self-immolating Italian-born journalist named Anna, the two wildly attractive men she attracts and deflects, and her self-appointed housekeeper, a force of nature named Mercy. The urgent message of this gorgeously written novel, which deals head-on with the ravages of AIDS on a continent of grief: Open your eyes and look hard.”

I’ve written several posts about Lara’s book, all linking to Amazon so I should point out now that I receive no money in exchange for hits, clicks, what have you. I mention her book on my blog because I’m extremely proud of her and for no other reason.


Mercy by Lara Santoro

July 15, 2007

My cousin’s book Mercy is now available as pre-order on Amazon.

From my aunt (her mother):

    ANNA, AN ITALIAN-BORN JOURNALIST BASED IN KENYA, is drinking too much and missing her deadlines. One day, she is ambushed by a large, flamboyantly dressed African woman, Mercy, who talks herself into a job as Anna’s housemaid. Soon Mercy is organizing interviews for Anna in Nairobi’s worst slum and establishing much-needed order in the journalist’s disheveled life. While tension and misunderstanding punctuate Anna and Mercy’s developing relationship, the two women establish a genuine connection that will give each the courage to battle illness, injustice, and loss.

LARA SANTORO was born in Rome and educated in the US and France. A veteran journalist who has worked for the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek, Santoro has traveled extensively, covering wars, famines, and every major aspect of the AIDS epidemic. Mercy is her first novel. She divides her time between Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, and Boston, Massachusetts.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Anna, the Italian-born, Nairobi-based war correspondent and narrator of veteran journalist Santoro’s affecting debut novel, is fast succumbing to the pain and riot of burned, bloodied Africa. Excessively drinking, keeping two lovers—one, a fellow journalist; the other, the owner of a coffee plantation—and delaying assignments while pleading with her editor for a bureau transfer, she seems hell-bent on self-annihilation when Mercy, a local giantess miraculously squeezed into a pink halter-top and fake patent-leather pants, persuades Anna to give her a job as house girl. Mercy becomes indispensable to Anna, pushing her to give up alcohol and meet her deadlines and introducing Anna to Father Anselmo, an Italian priest who lives in and administers to the AIDS-wracked slum of Korogocho. But it is only after Anna learns that Mercy has AIDS that the full measure of the women’s connection to and effect upon each other comes full circle. Santoro, who has covered the African AIDS epidemic, evokes the continent’s everyday horrors and uncommon moments of grace in decidedly unsentimental prose, and her depiction of international journalists’ lifestyles is similarly powerful. Though the subtleties that make the first half of the book sublime become heavy-handed later on, the characters and their complicated relationships remain stirring until the end.


My Cousin’s Book

January 5, 2007

Here’s more information about Lara’s book.

MERCY by Lara Santoro. Other Press (ed. Rosemary Ahern)

Anna, a troubled war correspondent with a history of addiction and infidelity, is living in Nairobi, reporting on the political turmoil that abounds throughout the country, and the continent. To escape the atrocities of day-to-day life in Africa, and her own demons, she turns to alcohol. Anna is caught in a love triangle between Myles, another war correspondent whose dangerous lifestyle means he cannot be counted upon for stability, and Nick, a wealthy coffee farmer who adores Anna but lacks the seriousness of Myles. Soon, she hires Mercy as her maid—a larger-than-life figure with a disreputable past. Initially suspicious and contemptuous of one another, the two women develop a bond that transforms their lives. Through her relationship with Mercy, Anna is able to fully understand and comprehend the injustices that surround her—poverty and disease are everywhere. While at first she is able to keep the horror of the AIDS crisis at arms reach, it is not long before it hits far too close to home: Mercy admits that she is infected with HIV. Despite Anna’s determination to “extract one living body from this orgy of death,” Mercy dies of AIDS. In the end, Anna, and the reader, are left with the sad realization of life’s inequalities—and the frustrating, and somewhat hopeful, understanding that change is almost within reach.

Santoro was born in Rome, Italy, and worked as a foreign correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek Magazine, covering mostly conflict. MERCY is her first novel. Translation & UK: EMLA (Markson)


Mercy by Lara Santoro

December 19, 2006

Although it won’t be published until September 2007, I’ll start some buzz on my cousin’s book Mercy. Don’t quote me, but I believe it’s about a troubled white woman who moves to Africa and through her maid learns about compassion and spirituality. The maid gets AIDS but getting medicine for AIDS is hard to impossible in impoverished Africa so the story gets into the maid’s painful journey with the disease.

Mercy, by Lara Santoro. Look for it online and in bookstores next September.


See You In September

August 1, 2006

We’re off to Italy soon so you probably won’t see anything here until September. I might upload some pictures to my Flickr account while in Italy but I’m thinking I probably won’t have the time.

My mother will be meeting us in Napoli which will be great for everyone. It’s been about a year since my children saw their grandmother so I’m sure they’ll have a great time together. My cousin Lara will be in Tuscany visiting her parents, along with her daughter who is a few months older than my son. I’m hoping the children can connect and form relationships with everyone.

When we get back in September, it’ll be crunch time to get my son ready for school. At that time I might have to reassess my determination to blog because while writing this thoughtless, short post – I was interrupted a total of fifteen sixteen seventeen eighteen nineteen (I kid you not) times. It’s almost impossible for me to write a single word anymore.

So there it is. Wish us luck. Traveling with a four-year old and a one-year old should be interesting. I haven’t been to Italy in about two decades (yes, I’m that old) so I’m hoping I don’t faint once I get there.



Mambo Italiano

May 29, 2006

A girl went back to Napoli,
because she missed the scenery,
the native dances
and the charming songs
but wait a minute…

She’s also going up to Tuscany to visit her relatives. And then head back down south where the Amalfi Coast awaits her.

The last time I was in Italy was when I was 16. That was many, many, many moons ago. But I still remember it like it was yesterday. Think it has changed since then?

I remember how it was when I first went, at around 8-years old and how our apartment overlooked the Colosseum and how we’d throw prosciutto out of our windows to the stray cats below. I remember feeling ill right before we went into my father’s favorite restaurant and my father not believing me until I threw up in front of the Colosseum on our way home. I remember strolling around my cousins’ grandmother’s house and how we ate plums straight off the trees in her yard. I remember my aunt getting pulled over by a cop and how my cousins immediately starting crying, saying in Italian, “Don’t arrest our mama!”. It was all a show but it worked. I remember eating at a restaurant up in the mountains somewhere and there were a lot of chestnuts on the ground. I remember how my aunt’s maid would leave out a glass of milk and a boiled egg for breakfast. If you were late to the table, you got warm milk and a cold egg. I remember getting eaten alive by mosquitoes at night because there were no screens in my aunt and uncle’s house. I remember thinking how cool it was that there were snails in my aunt’s front yard. I remember finding polished tile pieces in the sea from an old tile factory that fell into the sea during an earthquake many years before. I remember going around with my cousins, saying, “Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, osso duro vaffanculo” along with hand gestures. I remembered being freaked out at the catacombs and in awe of the jewels in the Vatican. I remember taking small tiles from walking paths in the Forum, even though there were warnings not to everywhere. I remember getting Barba Papa dolls.

It’s funny what we retain for memories.

I wonder what my son will remember from this trip.