Selected Works

Nonfiction
A look at life in little-known mountain towns of the Sicilian hinterlands.
A true account of the last years of an ancient Sicilian giant bluefin tuna trap.






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Out of Palermo

anti-immigrant ship hassled in Cyprus

July 28, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

The crew of a ship hired by a European far-right movement aiming to disrupt migrant rescues in the Mediterranean have reportedly been deported from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus for alleged people-smuggling after 21 south Asians were found onboard.
The crew of the C-Star were taken off the vessel at the port of Famagusta, and appeared in court on Thursday, alongside the ship’s Swiss owner.
They were accused of preparing and circulating false documents, but were later released for lack of evidence.

Sit in at Catania port to protest racist group trying to disrupt rescues of migrants at sea

July 22, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning, sit in, catania

From La Repubblica this morning:
The anti-racist non profit associations of Sicily are on the brink of "war." Today at Catania's port they protested against the idea of letting the ship C-Star dock there. The C Star is a ship rented by by the extreme right group Generazione Identitaria,
( Identity Generation), an extreme right multinational group formed in 2012 and made up of French, Italian and German members. Alfonso Di Stefano, representative of the Catania Anti-racist Network, said, " We are expressing our unconditional solidarity with the precious work that the humanitarian ships do and we will stand vigil in the port until the docking of the C-Star does not happen here nor anywhere in Sicily. We know that up until yesterday evening it was blocked in the port of Suez. It seems that it is going to leave or it has already left and it will take from five to six days to arrive here.
The C Star intends to lend support to the Libyan Coast Guard in its operations in which they stop vessels loaded with migrants and turn them back to Libya.
At the sit-in at the Catania port were thirty representatives of the non- profits that comprise the Network, who showed banners with the saying: "No more shipwrecks. The right to European refuge in order not to die," and Freedom, not Frontex," and " The right to asylum and humanitarian corridors."

Sicilian mayor moves to block far-right plan to disrupt migrant rescues

July 21, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning, catania, mayor, far right, block

Sicilians feel empathy for people not of their race, true empathy.
From The Guardian today:
A Sicilian mayor is seeking to block a ship chartered by a group of far-right activists attempting to disrupt migrant rescues in the Mediterranean.

Enzo Bianco, the mayor of Catania, has urged authorities in the port city on the island’s east coast to deny docking rights to C-Star, a 40-metre vessel hired by Generation Identity, a movement made up of young, anti-Islam and anti-immigration activists from across Europe, for its sea mission to stop migrants entering Europe from Libya.

The ship is expected to arrive on Saturday, and the group intends to launch its mission next week.

25th anniversary of Mafia/State murder of Paolo Borsellino

July 19, 2017

Tags: Paolo Borsellino, judge, investigator, anti-mafia, assassination, escorts, 25th anniversary, mafia, state, people, sorrow, grief, hero, martyr, honest

After the church bells tolled, after the minute of silence at 4:58 p.m., the moment the car bomb exploded twenty-five years before, the assassinated Judge Paolo Borsellino's brother read the names of the victims:
Paolo Borsellino
Agostino Catalano
Emanuela Loi
Walter Eddiee Cosina
Claudio Traina

Temporary humanitarian visas

July 19, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From The Guardian:
Italy has confirmed it is considering issuing temporary humanitarian visas that would allow tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived in the country from Libya to travel around the European Union.

The move would provoke an immediate Austrian response, including the closure of the border with Italy at the Brenner Pass.
Austrian troops to stop migrants crossing border with Italy
Read more

The chances of Italy being able legally to grant unilateral humanitarian visas in this way is slight, but the threat is intended to concentrate minds in the EU after Italy failed to win clear practical support from Germany and France to take more people that have been arriving in increasing numbers from Libya.

mafia profits from immigrants' suffering

July 18, 2017

Tags: migrants, mafia, suffering

From the New York Times:
ISOLA DI CAPO RIZZUTO, Italy — The government provided millions of euros to care for the migrants who had arrived at the reception center at Italy’s toe after traveling across deserts, war zones or choppy seas. But on many days, they were served little more than rancid chicken. Some did not eat at all when the food ran out.

At the same time, the priest who founded the local branch of the charity managing the center was spending money on expensive hotels and restaurants, splurging on fine wines and stashing thousands of euros in three safes at home, the authorities say. His business partners — mobsters and their associates — outfitted their bathtubs with golden taps. Some hid thousands of euros in vacuum-sealed plastic bags tucked in their fireplaces. (more…)

July 16, 2017

Tags: Mattanza, first edition, first printing, author signed, personalized inscription, eBay, Favignana, book, first, nonfiction, giant bluefin tuna, fishermen, tonnaroti, tradition, gone, extinct, history

For sale by me on eBay:
15 copies of my first book, Mattanza, in pristine condition, signed by me and with a personalized inscription. I have kept these books in temperature- and humidity-controlled storage since they were first printed. Hardcover first printing, first edition, illustrated, with end papers.
Click on the caption to see my auction on eBay.

Sicilians offer swimming, diving lessons to refugees traumatized by their sea crossing

July 16, 2017

Tags: trauma, fear, water, swim, scuba, dive, immigrants, sicilians, warm, heart, empathy, compassion, refugees, crossing, Mediterranean

From the Washington Post:
By Michael Birnbaum July 15 at 7:12 PM
MESSINA, Italy — Abdoulie Jallow lives on the Sicilian coast, but until recently, looking at the Mediterranean Sea filled him with dread.
The azure water reminded the 17-year-old Gambian of his journey from Libya last year, a middle-of-the-night departure on an overcrowded dinghy in which he had to abandon himself to his faith in God. (more…)

7300 rescued immigrants to arrive southern Italy tomorrow

July 13, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From La Repubblica Palermo online today:
Seven- thousand- three- hundred immigrants rescued in the Strait of Sicily in the last 48 hours will disembark from ten rescue ships tomorrow in Sicily, Campania and Puglia, Italy's southern provinces.
This morning another 386 reached the Sicilian port of Trapani, including 71 children and 55 women, ten of whom are pregnant.

According to the latest data from Frontex, the European Union's border police, in June 24,800 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea, with an increase of eight percent over the previous month of May. And that number is 21 percent higher than the same period of last year. In the first six months of 2017, 166,000 migrants crossed the sea to reach the European Union.

Sicilians Do It Better: Dolce & Gabbana Present Their Alta Moda in Palermo

July 12, 2017

Tags: palermo, dolce, gabbana, moda, fashion, models, fountain, runway, city, sicily, italy

From Vogue magazine:
The arrival of a sleekly suited and enigmatic-looking man flanked by three watchful, headset-wearing bodyguards whose hands hovered above the meaningful bulges beneath their jackets did not, at first, seem that remarkable.

After all, around 430 clients, many of them new, travelled from across the world to the Sicilian capital of Palermo to experience the 126-look swoon that was Dolce & Gabbana’s latest Alta Moda show last night. And at Alta Moda, personal security detachments are ten a penny: The wealth that enables these super shoppers to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes considerably more, buying into this couture-but-beyond iteration of idealized Italian-ness comes with its own burdens.

Yet this new face was a man without a woman at a womenswear show who spent a great deal of time shaking hands with people he didn’t know. It seemed strange. When he shook my hand all became clear: This was no less that Rosario Crocetta, the President of Sicily, a son-of-a-seamstress communist anti-corruption campaigner who has been the target of at least three Mafia assassination plots. Wow. So why was he here? The president said: “As far as I am concerned Dolce and Gabbana are the best interpreters in Sicilian style. It is in their blood, and they do a lot for Sicily.”

Here is their high-fashion jewelry show at Palazzo Gangi, Palermo.

(more…)

Fishers of Men: Watch this movie about MOAS saving migrants at sea

July 9, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning, MOAS, documentary

Click on the caption to watch this excellent documentary about the work of MOAS.
From their website:
The creation of MOAS was one family’s reaction to the European migration crisis that they saw unfolding in the waters of the Mediterranean. Fishers of Men is a documentary film that follows the Catrambones as they embark on the MOAS journey and gives an inside view into the work of the NGO throughout their time at sea.

The documentary uses footage from media outlets and embedded video journalists to map the history of the charity and give a raw, unfiltered view of what maritime search and rescue operations really look like. Filmed across several years footage shows MOAS responding to the developing crisis in the Central Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea. The film outlines the various aspects of the rescues as told by the search and rescue crews, tells the stories of those they rescue and gives an insight into the challenges faced by the Catrambones as they fight to keep the charity alive.

A deal for il Festino: Santa Rosalia's Feast from On High

July 8, 2017

Tags: festino, palermo, palazzo asmundo, feat, santa rosalia, patron, saint, procession, festivities, terra da mare, tourism, culture, aperitif, cena, supper, entertainment, procession, religious, food, wine, drink, revel, spectacle, important


Where: Palazzo Asmundo, Via Pietro Novelli, 3 (corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele), Palermo
When: Friday 14 July 2017 starting at 7 p.m.
Cost: 50 euro
Info in Italy: 329-876-5958 or 320- 767-2134
Reservations required via internet form

› evento facebook: www.facebook.com/events/135957133635845

Anyone who will be in Palermo on this date should reserve their spot right now! If I were there, I would
For the 393rd five-day Feast of Santa Rosalia, the city's protectress, Palazzo Asmundo, a palace-museum directly across Via Vittorio Emanuele from the Norman Cathedral, will organize a palermitano supper and drinks with a magnificent overhead view of the incomparable spectacle on the Cathedral grounds.
Click on the caption to reserve a spot and to see photos of the palace interior, the buffet table laden with Sicilian specialties, and the privileged view from Palazzo Asmundo's balconies. Welcoming guests will be the members of the Terradamare ( land from Sea) cooperative, a grass-roots non profit that seeks to show cruise passengers the treasures of inner Palermo. (more…)

in polizzi generosa the madonna wears Dolce and Gabbana

July 7, 2017

Tags: mimi dolce, gabbana, madonna, polizzi generosa, sicilia, italy

Mimi` Dolce, half of the designer team Dolce and Gabbana, was born in Polizzi Generosa, my favorite Sicilian mountain town, to a father who was a tailor there.
When the priest asked him to help repair the chapel in the chiesa madre, he paid for repairs willingly. He also designed a mourning cape worn by a statue of the Madonna during Holy Week.
To see a little taped interview with barber, priest,and old friend of Dolce in Polizzi, click on the caption and scroll down in this issue of La Repubblica. It is in Italian but you see the marvelous little town.

EU call to aid vulnerable migrants

July 6, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From The Guardian:
Brussels will urge European countries to give shelter to more refugees from Africa to ease the pressure on Italy, as record numbers of people attempt the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean....
The appeal came as Amnesty International released a damning 31-page report linking “failing EU policies” to the the rising death toll in the Mediterranean, and shocking abuses faced by refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres.

Italy needs help with migrants: The Guardian

July 5, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From The Guardian:
High summer is migrant season in the Mediterranean. In rising numbers, men, women and children set off in the flimsiest of craft for Italy. So far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, at least 2,000 people have drowned in the attempt. This is made all the worse by the equivocation and even the hostility of EU states which make little show of solidarity; today Austria announced it was ready to send troops and tanks to stop migrants crossing the border from Italy. The Mediterranean is already the world’s worst maritime cemetery. Italy, which finds itself on the receiving end of this migration, urgently needs more European support than is currently on offer. ...
The number entering Europe by sea so far is 100,000, half last year’s number for the same period. Four-fifths of them arrived in Italy. Migrant centres are overwhelmed. The Italian government says the situation is “unbearable”. Last week it threatened to close its ports to ships used by NGOs to rescue migrants. It wants other coastline states – Spain and France – to offer points of arrival. A flurry of EU meetings – with another one due on Thursday in Tallinn – has so far produced little concrete help, while a proposed EU “code of conduct” for NGOs risks limiting their action. NGOs are furious that their humanitarian work has been described as creating a “pull factor”: they say that is finger-pointing rather than tackling the real issues.

It is to Italy’s credit that, in 2013, it became the first European country to launch a life-saving operation, Mare Nostrum. Since then, search and rescue operations have been internationalised.

Under pressure

July 4, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From The Guardian:

Charities that rescue migrants and refugees from the Mediterranean have reacted angrily to plans to make them subject to a new code of conduct drawn up by Italy and endorsed by other EU countries.

The move is likely to bring them under the control of the Libyan and Italian coast guards, which might constrain their ability to save passengers from overcrowded and unseaworthy smuggling boats.

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