EGANVILLE – Literacy Plus hosted a fundraising night as part of the Bonnechere Authors Festival at St. James The Less church on July 4.
As part of a continuing series of author-centered events, the evening focused on Toronto author Nino Ricci who was in attendance to do a public reading and answer questions from the audience.
Growing up in Leamington, Ontario, Ricci claims that a lot of his works are somewhat autobiographical.
Struggling with his Italian roots in a small border-town setting, Ricci experienced a blend of Canadian, Italian and American culture all in one space.
He often draws from that experience to create characters that have transcultural experiences, often taking them out of their own nationalities or heritages and helping them to see the world differently.
On his second visit to Eganville, Ricci talked about how the immigrant experience continues to rise up within his writing, and sometimes even to his own dismay.
“Oddly enough, when I started writing, I swore I’d never write about the immigrant experience but I tend to keep dwelling on that theme,” Ricci said.
His last few works have won him some acclaim as his first major published work, Lives Of The Saints, was actually turned into a television mini-series that starred Sophia Loren.
Ricci has also won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Canadian Authors Association Fiction Award.
In 2003, Ricci published the groundbreaking book Testament that was basically a re-imagining of the life of Jesus from a mortal perspective.
The bulk of the evening, however, had Ricci talking about his most recent work The Origin of Species with readings from within the book.
The book focuses on Darwinian themes as the main character, Alex, wrestles and obsesses over the idea of evolutionary theory.
In order to better understand the character, Ricci himself took a trip to the Galapagos Islands a few years ago.
“Most of my book arrives at an intersection point between some kind of personal obsession and things that have a larger cultural significance,” Ricci said.
In the question period, Ricci was asked about being an immigrant in Canada and that despite being Italian, if there are often many similarities between immigrants of all different cultures who learn to fit into a new community.
“It’s something we don’t talk about that much in Canada – we often think of these separate communities as being very separate and different and yet, they have so many commonalities through the immigrant experience,” Ricci noted.
“Most immigrants, whatever their nationality, tend to go through very similar experiences and yet, they don’t often get to talk about that between groups,” he added. “One of the things I was trying to deal with in The Origin Of Species is that there are all these groups; the Italians, the Koreans, the Portugese, and we think that all of our customs are so different, but when do the groups ever get together in a room and talk about their common experience,” he said.
Story continues in the July 11 issue of The Valley Gazette.