Sicilian Family Adventures

Non-Fiction - Memoir
254 Pages
Reviewed on 09/18/2019
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Author Biography

I was born in New York City and raised in Yonkers, NY in a diversified neighborhood, where I heard many of my neighbors' family stories. When I asked my parents where our family came from, I was told that we were born in NYC and are Americans.
It wasn't until I was in my mid-thirties that I discovered my origins. This led to many hours of research and writing to complete strangers around the world. I received two replies and after years of correspondence, I took the journey to meet these wonderful people. Our friendships continue and I'm still meeting new family members.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Randy B. Lichtman for Readers' Favorite

As I read Sicilian Family Adventures by Celia A. Milano, it made me feel like an adopted member of her family as she shared very personal and exciting stories during her journeys in Italy and her discovery of the history of her family. That’s how she made me feel as a reader, like “one of the family.” This is not a travelogue but a description of three adventures Celia had when she was researching her family history. Along with the beautiful pictures of Italy and the people and places she encountered, is a description of what she was feeling and thinking at every part of her trip. The tone and humor reminded me of Helene Hanff’s narratives in one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road, only this is not a collection of letters but a narrative of her observations.

This book is divided into three parts. The first part seems to be written as a gift to her family of her original trip back in 1997 to Italy to find out about her great-grandparents. We get to know some of her relatives and her close feelings about them. We not only hear about them, we see family pictures of them which I enjoyed as a “family reader”. In the second part, Celia continues to try to find some closure in regards to her family history, also learning about people from the first part who sadly passed. When Part II closes, we think we are done—wrong! Celia not only wants to complete her family history, but she also asks the mayor of a city to allow her to photograph the gravestones of people who had lived in the city—and he agrees. The third part is a diary with pictures describing her project and her encounters with people and her family. In part three, do not read it without having eaten first—each entry seems to describe a wonderful special treat that she was given and meals which she enjoyed; unfair if you have not eaten yet and pictures also often share those delicious meals.

Her enthusiasm, commitment to her project, sense of humor, excellent writing, pictures of sites and family, and the continuity through the three parts make this a wonderfully enjoyable book to read. I felt honored to have gotten to know so many wonderful people through Celia’s eyes, and frankly, it made me want to visit Italy someday—maybe I can meet my “adopted family”. If you also want to become a member of the family, or at least have an enjoyable time traveling through Italy and its wonders and get to know a great family, I highly recommend Sicilian Family Adventures by Celia A. Milano for a literary treat! It's meraviglioso (Wonderful)!

Edith Wairimu

Growing up, Celia A. Milano always wondered where her family was from originally as her grandparents spoke differently. The answer that she always received when she asked was that they were Americans from New York City. Back in the 1920s to 1950s, discrimination against other ethnicities was common. The goal was to blend in and not stand out. In the 1990s, however, Milano received a parcel from her mother that contained documents pointing to the family’s genealogy. In 1997, a letter arrived just before she and her husband traveled to Sicily. Twenty years later, more answers have been found of Milano’s family history and these are recorded in Sicilian Family Adventures.

The work is beautifully put together with amazing photos that immediately transport readers to sights and scenes of Sicily. From different monumental structures, the amazing landscapes and beautiful weather to the culture of the people marked by heart-warming hospitality, the book continues to engross. The discoveries that Milano makes of her extended family as she connects with relatives in different parts of Sicily make the work even more delightful to read. Funny moments occur along the way which enlivens the work while the difficult times that appear in the book make it emotive. The work is comprehensive, following the family’s genealogy back to past generations which have been compiled through years of research. During her travels, Milano makes friends and enjoys the local delectable cuisine. Sicilian Family Adventures by Celia A. Milano not only traces back the origins of a family, but it also highlights many delightful experiences.

Mamta Madhavan

Sicilian Family Adventures by Celia A. Milano is the fascinating journey of the author to the island of Sicily in search of her roots and Sicilian family after learning from her mother that her ancestors came from Sicily. It is from the documents her mother sends her that she comes across the birth and death certificates of her grandparents and decides to research more. In 1997, she decides to go to Sicily. She starts by booking a week on the island of Sardinia. She meets her cousins during her travels in Italy and she comes back to America with a load of memories from her ancestral villages and family.

The memoir captures the sights and sounds of this beautiful place and the author weaves in her excitement of meeting her family and discovering her roots along with it. She takes us to some wonderful places, towns, and villages in Italy, making the culture, food, people, and places of interest come alive for readers. The pictures shared in the book are fabulous and will make readers want to pack their bags and travel to Italy to soak in the beauty of the land. What makes the book heartwarming is how the author enjoys the beauty of the small towns in Italy and wonders why her grandparents left. There is an element of nostalgia that runs through the book as the author travels through various beautiful locations and meets her family. The book is not just about the author tracing her roots but is also a good read for all those planning to travel to Italy as it will give them interesting tips on where to visit and what to see.