Tazia and Gemma

Tazia and Gemma

3.55 (11 ratings by Goodreads)
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It's 1911. Tazia survives fire, and she's unwed, pregnant and Italian in America.

Tazia, a pregnant seventeen-year-old Italian immigrant and survivor of the Triangle Waist Company fire, flees New York, leaving her married lover to think she miscarried the baby he urged her to abort. To support herself and her daughter Gemma, Tazia takes low-wage jobs as she migrates westward.

Gemma, now fifty, embarks on an eastward journey to find her father, eventually tracing her roots to Italy. In the end, Tazia no longer needs to escape her history, while Gemma finds that her identity leads back to her mother.

Tazia and Gemma illuminates the tension between assimilation versus honoring one's heritage, and confronts the struggle for self-respect in the face of discrimination and demeaning work conditions-issues both timely and timeless.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 280 pages
  • 140 x 216 x 18mm | 295g
  • English
  • 1925417727
  • 9781925417722

Review quote

"Tazia and Gemma is the story of a mother's fierce determination to raise her daughter on her own terms, and a daughter's determination to discover and understand those terms. This is compulsively readable fiction: vivid, curious, and moving. It's also an intimate chronicle of early twentieth-century American history that needs to be remembered right now. The daily lives of working-class people, immigrants, minorities, and women--Epstein tells their stories with the attentiveness and dignity they deserve. You deserve to pick up this novel, for its lessons and its pleasures." Polly Rosenwaike, Author of Look How Happy I'm Making You

"In Tazia and Gemma, Ann S. Epstein has created a novel of two complementary odysseys, one urgently looking forward, seeking a home, and one yearningly looking backwards, seeking origins. The two title characters are mother and daughter, and in Epstein's wonderful rendering, we follow the mother Tazia's journey across America over the course of several decades, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire early in the century to the wartime boom in California in the 1940s and 50s. Throughout her journeys, what shines through is Tazia's fierce sense of justice and her equally fierce love for her daughter. Gemma's journey, backwards in time, is more of a detective story, as she tracks down the people and places where she and her mother lived and worked when she was an infant and young girl. As Gemma pieces together an understanding of her mother's past lives, she comes to unexpected insights that take her beyond her original goals to a new sense of the meaning of home. Epstein's work shows a deep affection for her many memorable characters, and Tazia's dramatic encounters across the landscape of America over fifty years encapsulates our history from new and seldom-heard-from perspectives. A deeply-researched, deeply-felt, and deeply enjoyable novel." Lawrence Coates, Author of The Goodbye House and The Blossom Festival

"A daughter's search for her father becomes a search for a collective identity that spans much of the United States and Italy; a mother's insistence that she has a right to her privacy and that her personal 'identity'--the one she believes in--is the one she has created for herself. Epstein weaves a nonlinear tale that seeks to reconcile race, religion, personal identity, truth, mother-daughter relationships and more, and which proves (as most human experience) in some ways satisfying and in others, impossible. After all, when does the right to our own stories extend to appropriating the stories of others? Can we ever truly 'know' another human being? The conflict in Tazia and Gemma makes a fascinating read." L. E. Kimball, Author of Seasonal Roads

"Ann S. Epstein's new work, Tazia and Gemma, is a novel beginning in the early nineteen hundreds that looks at the journey of a young Italian immigrant, Tazia, who struggles to retain her self-respect while working under demeaning conditions, and her daughter Gemma, who searches for her father and her heritage. This moving story of racial and religious conflicts and Epstein's dreamlike writing will keep you reading until the last page." Deepak Singh, Author of How May I Help You? An Immigrant's Journey from MBA to Minimum Wage
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Rating details

11 ratings
3.55 out of 5 stars
5 27% (3)
4 27% (3)
3 27% (3)
2 9% (1)
1 9% (1)
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