Narratives of Displacement: The Challenges of Motherhood and Mothering in semi-fictional works by Laura Pariani, Mary Melfi, and Donatella Di Pierantonio

Laura Rorato


This article analyses the representation of the impact of migration on family dynamics in three autobiographical works: Laura Pariani’s Il piatto dell’angelo (2013), Mary Melfi’s Italy Revisited. Conversations with my Mother (2009), and Antonella Di Pietrantonio’s Mia madre è un fiume (2011). All three authors were directly or indirectly affected by the wave of emigration that took place in Italy between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Pariani extends her observations to the present by focusing also on those South American women who are currently moving to Italy to work as cares for old people, often leaving their families behind. Motherhood and mothering are central themes in all three books. These works problematise the patriarchal notion of motherhood and highlight the need to move towards alternative concepts of motherhood that do not imply the subordination of women. Additionally, this article offers a reflection on the role that creative writing can play in challenging some of the most engrained stereotypes, such as those of the good mother versus the bad mother, partially related to our Christian tradition. Building on Podnieks and O’Reilly’s notion of “maternal texts” (1-2), this article argues that through fiction women are less inhibited in exploring the thornier aspects of motherhood as a social construction than they seem to be in everyday life.


motherhood; mothers and daughters; maternal texts; migration; Laura Pariani; Mary Melfi; Antonella Di Pietrantonio

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