A Memoir of Loss, Longing, and Letting Go
Linda Schifino’s beloved childhood neighborhood is gone—apartment buildings, familiar stores, and family homes demolished, the church that nurtured three generations of her family now a parking lot, family members and neighbors long dead. The passage of time has become her antagonist. Faced with heartbreaking loss, Schifino hoards treasured family memories, stories, and customs. When her son asks if it’s okay to bring a ham to Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, Schifino fears the beginning of the dismantling of her family traditions.
Neighborhood Girl explores timeless human themes of family, place, and loss. The story begins in an Italian American enclave of Pittsburgh in the 1950s, a loving and close-knit community that consisted of small clapboard houses and apartments over grocery stores and butcher shops, where generations of families celebrated saint’s day festivals with brass bands and homemade sausage sandwiches. Chapters introduce characters such as Mim, a beloved aunt whose botched abortion left her childless; Baw Baw, the author’s great-grandfather who drank too much and sang too loud; and the guys who sat on the stoop and provided six-year-old Linda with a numbers running gig that taught her the distinction between them and her adoring, yet overprotective father.
Poignant and open-hearted, Neighborhood Girl is an absorbing family story that invites the reader along as the author sifts through fragile memories like an archeologist in an effort to preserve a family legacy. An affable and sincere narrator, Schifino’s memoir is at once heartbreaking, humorous, and engaging.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
There's so much to admire about Linda Schifino's debut memoir. With their fine writing, the individual chapters bring to life the evolution of both Schifino and America in the way they capture the transformation of mid-century old-world communities and the neighborhood girls (and boys) who populated them. The Larimer Avenue of Schifino's youth can be Mulberry Street or any other Little Italy, any Chinatown, or Little Havana. The stories told in this book are laced with nostalgia and all the things that come with it--love, surely, and disappointment and loss. But also hope and the eventual exultation that comes from looking back to see what we've overcome. The discoveries Schifino makes about herself, her family, and the idea of home are also revelatory for the reader as they look at the way our lives are shaped and how, no matter how much we move, we never stray too far from the neighborhood.—Gerry LaFemina, author of The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness
Linda Schifino’s memoir is an absolute delight—warm, richly evoked, beautifully written. The vanished world of her childhood comes alive on these pages, and so does the story of what continues to inspire her. Readers with ties to Pittsburgh will savor this memoir. So will those who never lived in Schifino’s Pittsburgh or set foot in the city where she was born, raised, and still resides. What a great read!—Jane Bernstein, award-winning author of The Face Tells the Secret, Bereft—a Sister’s Story, and other books.
Linda Schifino’s Neighborhood Girl filled me with longing for the time, place, and people she so lovingly represents in translucent prose that brings us right into the little Larimer apartment where she lived with her parents, aunt, and uncle in the 1950s. Family and neighborhood characters are so vividly drawn, I felt their spiritual presence lift right off the page and join me in the room. How absolutely rooted in both Pittsburgh and Italian tradition this writer’s story is, and how wise she is to understand the gifts that made her childhood, despite its heartbreaks and contradictions, a magical and enviable place that lit the foundation for her future as a mother, sister, and grandmother. It’s no easy feat to write a book about a basically happy childhood—and Schifino pulls it off beautifully-- guided by the spirits of forgiveness, respect, and deep, abiding love. —Jane McCafferty, author of First You Try Everything
Linda Schifino’s Neighborhood Girl is a feat of memory and imagination. In poetic prose so evocatively precise, Schifino resurrects the Larimer Avenue of her girlhood – the beating heart of Old World Italianita in Pittsburgh’s legendary neighborhood, East Liberty. Like a cartographer, an ethnographer, she reanimates an era – its people and their hard-headed celebratory ethnicity. While Schifino unapologetically champions and mythologizes the “neighborhood” – which only adds to its mystique as a now-vanished way of “the better life” that abides so gloriously, so timelessly, in the vaults of her capacious memory – she cannily keeps sentimentality at bay. With clear-eyed resolve, she takes head-on the often-withering realities of working-class immigrant life, unresolved racial tensions, confusing family dynamics, and a shifting political landscape that denatured Larimer Avenue. Neighborhood Girl, a brilliant tutorial on how to write about place, is an illuminating, lovely, wholly wonderful memoir.—Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate (2012-14) and author of East Liberty
Neighborhood Girl by Linda Schifino begins in a three-room apartment over Mr. Corazza’s grocery store on Larimer Avenue in Pittsburgh. It opens into a full-bodied story rife with sensory details like Mrs. Gentilcore’s chicken store and the coal yard next door, Henry Grasso’s sausage store, the Italian Brotherhood Beneficial Association. This compelling memoir of a loving Italian family brings us up close to the work boots and the lunch pail—all the intimacies of the working poor. This is about legacy, love, and respect—a beautifully written, heartwarming story that inspires devotion—to memory, ancestry, the ways we carry on.—Jan Beatty, author of American Bastard, Red Hen Press.
Author: Linda Schifino
Page Count: 158
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Publish Date: August 18, 2023
Imprint: Brown Posey Press
Biography and Autobiography/ Cultural, Ethnic, and Regional
Biography and Autobiography/ Personal Memoir
Family and Relationships/General