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  • Bob Puglisi

NEWS FROM THE OUTER REACHES – AUGUST 2023



New Addition to Our Family

We had some exciting news recently. The photos above are of our new great-grandson Caleb David Shawn Sanquiche. The little fella arrived three weeks early at 5 pounds 15 ounces, 19 inches—and look at all that hair. As a result of his early arrival, he had to spend a little extra time at the hospital before going home with his proud parents DJ and Mallory. I’m happy to report that he’s doing well. Yeah, Anita and I have moved up a notch from DJ’s grandparents to our new position as great-grandparents. I should feel older, but I still feel the same: “old-older.” Hopefully, we will travel back east to see him soon.


My New Writing Project

I’m researching WWII in Italy for a novel, the working title, “Amore di Napoli: Love Amidst War.” It’s a love story based in Naples during the war. My research has been going well. I’ve learned much about that period of history. One of the fascinating things I’ve come across is how the Italians treated their Jewish citizen when WWII broke out.


We all know about the horrors of the Nazis’ “final solution” and how they arrested millions of Jews throughout occupied Europe. I never considered that Jewish people lived in Italy. In 1938, Italy passed racial laws stating things Italian Jews could do and couldn’t. Mussolini, as bad as he was, didn’t persecute the Jews in Italy. Many lived in cities and small towns all over the country.


When Italy aligned itself with Hitler, the Italian Jews were respectfully put into internment camps; there were several in and around the Italian mainland. One was in the town of Campagna. There were two camps in the old Convent of San Bartolomeo and the old military barracks. Ferramonti was another camp in the town of Tarsia in the region of Calabria. It was the largest camp in Italy. The camps didn’t have gas chambers or horrible living conditions; the people weren’t tortured or experimented on and were free to come and go as they wished. Albeit, the Italian Jews were treated much better than the Japanese who were interred in U.S. internment camps.


The following books have been written about the subject:

“It Happened In Italy” by Elizabeth Bettina

“Bad Times, Good People” by Walter Wolff

“Hidden in Plain Sight” by Carmine Vittorio


In Nazi-occupied Europe, 75-80 percent of the Jewish population was executed. In Italy, 75-80 percent of the Jews survived.


Another book I read about that time is a novel not based in Italy but about the war in Europe, and the Red Cross donut ladies who traveled around the war zone in trucks making donuts and coffee for the troops, and just about anyone else who came along. It’s called “Goodnight Irene.” by Luis Alberto Urrea. It’s based on Urrea’s mom, who was one of those ladies. The following are some blurbs and a description:


This “powerful, uplifting, and deeply personal novel” (Kristin Hannah, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Four Winds), at once “a heart-wrenching wartime drama” (Christina Baker Kline, #1 NYT bestselling author of Orphan Train) and “a moving and graceful tribute to heroic women” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), asks the question: What if a friendship forged on the front lines of war defines a life forever? In the tradition of The Nightingale and Transcription, this is a searing epic based on the magnificent and true story of courageous Red Cross women.


“Urrea’s touch is sure; his exuberance carries you through . . . He is a generous writer, not just in his approach to his craft but in the broader sense of what he feels necessary to capture about life itself.” —Financial Times


In 1943, Irene Woodward abandons an abusive fiancé in New York to enlist with the Red Cross and head to Europe. She makes fast friends in training with Dorothy Dunford, a towering Midwesterner with a ferocious wit. Together, they are part of an elite group of women, nicknamed Donut Dollies, who command military vehicles called Clubmobiles at the front line, providing camaraderie and a taste of home that may be the only solace before troops head into battle.


After D-Day, these two intrepid friends join the Allied soldiers streaming into France. Their time in Europe will see them embroiled in danger, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Buchenwald. Through her friendship with Dorothy and a love affair with a courageous American fighter pilot named Hans, Irene learns to trust again. Her most fervent hope, which becomes more precarious by the day, is for all three of them to survive the war intact.


Taking as inspiration his mother’s own Red Cross service, Luis Alberto Urrea has delivered an overlooked story of women’s heroism in World War II. With its affecting and uplifting portrait of friendship and valor in harrowing circumstances, Good Night, Irene powerfully demonstrates yet again that Urrea’s “gifts as a storyteller are prodigious” (NPR).


Until next time, stay safe and enjoy the rest of what's left of summer.

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