cover image Strangers I Know

Strangers I Know

Claudia Durastanti, trans. from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris. Riverhead, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-08794-7

Durastanti's insightful and complex English-language debt examines a family's lifelong communication issues as its unnamed protagonist, an author and translator and 30-something daughter of two deaf Italian parents, explores the mysteries and myths of her life story. Her parents disagree on how they met, and divorce when the narrator is a young girl, causing her to split her childhood between Brooklyn, with her mother, and southern Italy, with her father. They don't teach her sign language, which makes communicating with them confusing or impossible, and her parents are often unstable (%E2%80%9CIt's easier to say my parents are deaf, more complicated to say they're mentally ill"). As a teen wandering down St. Marks Place, she discovers punk, prompting her to discard her %E2%80%9Cconformist magazines" and fall in love with the city's smell of %E2%80%9Ccandy and garbage." In college, she aches for guidance but struggles with intimacy, convinced that %E2%80%9Cestrangement" and poor communication are normal in a relationship, while real love is a myth. The narrator also addresses her feelings on being an outsider as an immigrant, and not knowing which social class she fits into in the U.S. While some of the narrative can feel jumbled, Durastanti offers profound insights and can capture moments of beauty. This makes for an enjoyable and distinctive bildungsroman. Agent: Sandra Pareja, Massie & McQuilkin. (Jan.)