Into the depth of silence
The story of Beatrice Palumbo can be the story of us. People immigrate, meet other people, and mate. To say that there is a pure race is a racist statement. Beatrice was born Catholic in Livorno, Italy. She meets Claudio, who reveals that her last name may be of Spanish Jewish martyrs. She visits Clara, her late father's sister, and discovers a dark past that spans five hundred years. She determines to go in search of her roots.
Beatrice Palumbo meets some friends in a cafe in Rome; in a conversation, her friend giggles that she has a "Jewish nose." Beatrice is offended and, from there, begins the shaky saga that leads her aunt Clara's basement in Livorno, Tuscany. Pandora's box is open, and the family secrets leak out. Beatrice discovers that she lived all her life under a fake identity and decides to go all the way in her research. Along with obstacles that will pile up at her feet, she will discover a wonderful world in which she is having an important part of the family puzzle that spans five hundred years.
Fragment of the Book:
"Don't be upset, Beatrice, but you have a Jewish nose."
Her cheeks turned red.
"Excuse me? A Jewish nose? And what does a Jewish nose look like? "
"Look into the mirror, and you will see."
A burst of laughter erupted from the three women sitting at the table in the small cafe on Rome's outskirts.
"I always am told I have a Roman nose," Beatrice said defensively.
"What does it matter, Jewish, Roman, Greek, it does not detract from the fact that you are a real gnocca."
"Now you are flattering me. Aren't you?"
Graziella approached Beatrice and hugged her. "I did not mean to offend you," she whispered into her ear.
Beatrice stood up and turned to some men sitting nearby.
"Hey," she said, "Would somebody tell me if being Jewish is something to be ashamed of?"
"If all Jewish women looked like you, then no, it's not a shame," replied one of the men as the others grinned and shook their heads without looking straight at her.
"You wretched racists," she blurted out at them.
Graziella raised her hand and motioned for the waiter to bring the bill. "Sit down Beatrice; you are making a fool of yourself; nobody here is a racist. I do not understand why you get so upset; it was just a statement, without any intention to offend."
For a moment the atmosphere seemed to calm down. Beatrice sat down and was silent as the conversation continued to flow in other directions. The waiter came and put the bill down on the table as Beatrice grabbed it and placed the payment next to it.
"I will pay, so you won't say that I am as stingy as you think Jews are."
She got up and left the cafe leaving her friends standing stunned and embarrassed.
"I do not understand what got into her. Where is the sense of humor? Why take everything so hard?" Beatrice Palumbo was born five decades ago in the Italian port city of Livorno, located in Tuscany, to a bourgeois Catholic family. When she was ten years old, they moved to Rome. Her devout parents, Sonia and Michele, would take her and her brother Davide who was two years younger than her, to church every Sunday. On Fridays, they did not eat meat, and at family meals, they made blessings over the food. Every week Beatrice and Davide would go to confession in the small local church in their neighborhood. At night before going to sleep, they would say a prayer.
Even after her marriage to Silvio and the birth of her two daughters, Maria Grazia and Monia, she kept up all the duties. However, approximately ten years ago, after her parents died within a year of each other and her girls were grown, she would skip praying now and then, avoided going to confession, and even didn't go to church on Sundays anymore.
When her two daughters got married, and her marriage to Silvio went sour, she decided that she was no longer interested in maintaining a religious character. She stopped going to church altogether and even missed her frequent visits to her parents' gravesite and contented herself with a visit once a year on All Saints' Day.
Her brother Davide, who never married, remained a devoted Catholic. He did not work, did not want to meet anybody, and lived on a meager disability pension. For a time, he brought into his home a homeless man whom he met at the church's soup kitchen where he would go for a hot meal. Beatrice suspected for many years that he had mental problems but they never talked about the subject.
After breaking up with her husband, she suddenly felt free to do whatever she pleased. She would hang out with her friends in cafes, enrolled in a neighborhood English class, and read many books that she borrowed from the public library in her neighborhood, where she worked as a part-time librarian. She did all the trite things that her husband had deprived her of, on the pretext that they were a "waste of time."
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