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A classic of Italian feminist mafia literature about a gender-bending mafiosa and the writer who becomes obsessed with telling her story
Sicily, 1980s: When she was just eight years old, Tina watched as her father, a member of Cosa Nostra, was murdered in cold blood. Now a teenager, she terrorizes her hometown of Gela, having made it her mission to join the mafia, an organization traditionally forbidden to women as made members. Nicknamed ’a masculidda, or “the tomboy,” Tina has taken charge of her own gang, and is notorious for her cruelty and reckless disregard for societal expectations.
When a news article is published about Tina’s latest crimes, a teacher living in Rome feels compelled to write a novel about her—even though it means returning to her native Sicily to gather material. She and Tina circle around each other in a dangerous dance of obsession and violence until their first, and last, explosive meeting.
This groundbreaking exploration of gender identity and clear-eyed presentation of an unseen side of the mafia is a landmark literary achievement by one of Italy’s feminist icons.
About the Author
Maria Rosa Cutrufelli was born in Messina, Sicily and raised shuttling back and forth between Sicily and Bologna; she now resides in Rome. A major figure in Italian feminist movements, she boasts a long, prolific career as a journalist, cultural critic, and novelist. After earning her degree in Literature from the University of Bologna, she founded and directed the journal Tuttestorie. She also authored several works of travel literature, largely devoted to Africa, where she lived for three years. Her works have been translated into some twenty languages.
Robin Pickering-Iazzi is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Among her published works in translation are the novel Suspicion by Laura Grimaldi, Unspeakable Women: Selected Short Stories Written by Italian Women during Fascism, and the widely acclaimed Mafia and Outlaw Stories from Italian Life and Literature.
Praise for Tina, Mafia Soldier
CrimeReads Most Anticipated Crime Fiction of 2023
CrimeReads Best International Crime Novel of 2023
“Poised between true crime and pulp noir, this gritty tale, translated by Robin Pickering-Iazzi, reads like a nightmare version of Elena Ferrante’s popular Neapolitan coming-of-age novels.”
—The Seattle Times
“This is no simple mob story. Maria Rosa Cutrufelli’s novel explores gender identity, roles and expectations within the heightened machismo of the mafia.”
“[A] fast-moving, provocative novel. The story is at once a compelling mob fiction and a clear-eyed assault on gender conventions in a society awash in corruption and hypocrisy.”
“In fluid, transparent, controlled language, Tina, Mafia Soldier addresses an exceedingly difficult yet necessary discourse. It shows a world in which the Mafia is an integral part of a small city, where omertà (the silence) is the only thing that seems to keep the community alive. Tina comes to represent all the children and teenagers that, due to factors beyond their control, are irrevocably lost to organized crime . . . [Cutrufelli] describes a microcosm where the line between victims and executioners becomes blurred, where even executioners become victims of a system that deprives them of any chance of salvation.”
“Gripping . . . Tina’s resistance to girlhood is very richly portrayed. Gender is a trap for her and the ways she does and does not escape that trap is really the heart of the novel.”
—The Lakshmi and Asha Show
“Cutrufelli flips the norms when it comes to stories about the Cosa Nostra . . . [A] detailed depiction of Sicilian culture and society illustrated via the unconventional story of a young woman who rebelled against this exact male-dominated culture.”
—Crime Fiction Lover
“Remarkable . . . This is a book of historic significance in the annals of feminism . . . The story of a young woman trying to establish agency in a world rigged to thwart her is moving, even if the power she sought to ally herself with was corrupt and criminal.”
—Reviewing the Evidence
“A simply riveting read.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Tina, Mafia Soldier is complex, with seductive metaphors and a grimly poisonous atmosphere . . . Compelling and potent.”
“Well worth the read, especially for those who enjoy stories of women smashing barriers.”
—First Clue, Starred Review
“Outstanding Italian noir . . . The fully developed characters complement the richly portrayed Sicilian setting, and a lengthy translator’s note provides useful background on the novel’s time and place. Readers interested in strong female characters won’t want to miss this tour de force.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“This novel dispelled the glitz and glamour of the Mafia that is often depicted on television and in the theatre . . . Highly recommended to those who crave gritty, realistic crime drama.”
“I read Tina, Mafia Soldier in one breath, discovering a depth of characters and environments that had been presented to me in the newspapers over the years . . . This novel gave me a different view, inviting me to enter a hostile and closed world with a generosity that reverberates through the protagonists of this story and allows us to converse with them. It opens up a way for us to listen to a reality that is easily marginalized.”
—Renate Siebert, author of Secrets of Life and Death: Women in the Mafia
“A mosaic of true stories enclosed in a tale of pure invention . . . The novelization of Sicily.”
“Maria Rosa Cutrufelli clearly knows how to paint an unprecedented landscape: one of a marginalized society and all its mysteries.”
—Corriere di Gela
“It is the story of the richness of genre, of the enchantment of a gesture, in its poetry and its tragedy.”