DAMARISCOTTA — The Peace Gallery, in Damariscotta, will host a reading and conversation with Elisa M. Speranza, author of the new novel The Italian Prisoner, Sunday, May 29, 2022, from 2 - 4 p.m. Ron Capps, author and director of the Veterans Writing Project, will interview Speranza about the book and the little known history at the heart of her novel.
A work of historical fiction set in the Sicilian community of New Orleans’ French Quarter, Speranza’s novel illuminates a true story involving Italian prisoners of war on the U.S. home front during World War II.
“The Italian Prisoner is an engrossing tale of wartime love, family secrets, and a young woman’s struggle to chart her own course at an inflection point in American history,” said The Peace Gallery, in a news release.
The book was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for a novel-in-progress in 2019.
Operation Torch, a critical WWII campaign, began in North Africa in November 1942 and ended with an Allied victory in May 1943. After the fighting ceased, the U.S. brought 380,000 Germans and 51,000 Italian POWs to camps around the U.S. (including in Houlton, Augusta, Bangor, Presque Isle and elsewhere in Maine). Italy surrendered and switched sides in September of 1943. The Italian POWs were no longer “enemy combatants,” but couldn’t be sent home in accordance with the Geneva Convention. Given a severe shortage of workers, in March of 1944 the U.S. Army offered the Italian POWs a chance to serve in “Italian Service Units.”
Almost all of them signed up.
Elisa M. Speranza, a native New Englander, is a writer based in New Orleans, Louisiana and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.
The Peace Gallery is located at 112 Main Street, Damariscotta.
The Peace Gallery, a veteran-focused arts collaborative, is a community resource and gathering space which nurtures physical, mental, and creative well-being.