‘How are the differences between Australian and Italo-Australian culture displayed by Marchetta and what effects do they have on the protagonist Josie?”
Melina Marchetta’s cult text ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ looks at many issues of growing up in Australia torn between two cultures. The main protagonist Josie Alibrandi was born in Australia into a family with strong Italian cultural links and her battle to ‘find’ herself and her ethnicity is one that I will explore further.
Before exploring Josie’s ethnicity it is important to outline its meaning. Ethnicity-”A complex amalgam of language, religion, customs, symbols, literature, music, food and, as its core, an internal and external perception of difference. […] one’s sense of both belonging to a group and being ‘exclu[ded] from the national definition of a country’” (Kee, 1986:7 as cited in Gunew.1994 p 49).
Throughout the text there are many instances of Josie dealing with conflict between her Italian heritage, her Australian heritage and the mix of these two resulting in the Italo-Australian culture. Josie has two main role models in her life throughout the text that stand for different things. Her mother, Christina Alibrandi who was bought up in a strict Italian way and has many of the traits of a ‘good Italian’ girl is used by Marchetta to form a moderate or ‘mildly Italian’ character. Christina Alibrandi fulfils the requirements of her Italian Culture but also is involved in several behaviours that suggest she has moved away from the strict guidelines outlined by her mother Katia. Christina has been constructed by Marchetta in a way that shows her movement from strong Italian culture to a more moderate Italo-Australian culture. This is highlighted when Katia (Nonna) becomes aware of the identity of Josie’s real father, Michael Andretti. ‘People will talk. They will talk for sure’. ‘You know what I think? Mama shouted. ‘I think you’re jealous because you didn’t go out and
References: ■ Melina Marchetta, Looking for Alibrandi (Ringwood: Penguin, 1993). ■ Film - ‘Looking for Alibrandi’, Roadshow, 1999 ■ Cultural Diversity + Children’s literature. Deakin University, 2006 ■ Stratton, Jon, ‘Race Daze: Australia in Identity Crisis’, Annadale: Pluto Press, 1998) ■ Anderson, Benedict, ‘Imagined Communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of Nationalism’ London: Version (1991)