“’I Was Made to Share Love, Not Hatred’: Ordinary Moral Heroes in the Young Adult Novels of Francesco d'Adamo"

Maria Truglio, The Pennsylvania State University

Author Francesco D’Adamo (born 1949), son of Istrian immigrants, began writing children’s literature in 1999. His award-winning books invite young readers to confront issues of exploitation and violence. Through first-person narration in the voice of protagonists about the age of the intended reader, his novels examine complex and traumatic experiences through the eyes of young people who take up active roles to redress injustice. His texts dramatize child labor (Storia di Iqbal, 2001), modern warfare (Johnny il seminatore, 2005), the use of child-soldiers (Storia di Ouiah che era un leopardo, 2006), exploitation of immigrants (Antigone sta nell’ultimo banco, 2019), the so-called Mediterranean migration crisis (Storia di Ismael che ha attraversato il mare, 2009), and slavery in Alabama (Oh Freedom, 2014). These Italian language works, set at times in Italy but also in Pakistan, the U.S., Africa, and elsewhere, position the protagonists as global citizens. Such a global perspective contrasts with the child heroism depicted in Italian children’s books from the post-unification through the mid-20th century, which emphasized Italian patriotism: “much of Italian children's literature of the early twentieth century . . . created little heroes who went off to die alongside soldiers to safeguard the Fatherland” (Detti). More than widening his lens from national to international concerns, D’Adamo’s books provoke an awareness of how the characters suffer and/or benefit from neocolonial and neoliberal systems that depend on the exploitation of others. My paper examines how D’Adamo’s works can be understood from, and shed light on, a feminist care ethical model. His protagonists come to a more mature sense not only of their inner autonomous selves, but also of their place as subjects “enmeshed in a network of relations to others” (Kittay and Meyers), and thus respond to their responsibilities towards those others. These characters model “ordinary moral heroes” (Mongoven).

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 38. "Rethinking Paradigms of National Identities in Contemporary Children's Literature: Chilean Landscapes, Puerto Rican Girlhoods, Italian Heroes"