Strangers I Know — Claudia Durastanti

My Italian literature kick* continues!

This is a quietly unsettling but captivating piece of autobiography. Both Claudia Durastanti’s parents — the eponymous “strangers” — are deaf, and her family lived a somewhat chaotic life in poverty both in southern Italy and the US.

The story (and it does read like more like a novel than an autobiography) considers what it is to really know your parents and the experience of growing up both proud of your family but also wanting to be “normal” like everyone else. There are some beautiful reflections on language and both understanding and misunderstanding without hearing.

I was delighted to recognise my own beloved N16 in the book — a joy quickly superseded by a disappointment that Durastanti clearly finds the city a sad place to live. (She contends that every Londoner always feels “the influence of a dark distant tower, an unease carried in the air” which is completely at odds with my experience of life in the capital.)

* I’m about to break with my Italian lit kick but would love any recommendations of other authors to discover.

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