This fortune teller kept a caged bird, which told the destinies of those who visited.
The bird would select “a tiny little scroll from a whole stack of scrolls – fortunes written on bits of paper, and the bird would drop it on a panel which would be given to the young waiting woman, and that was her life script,” Leyland said.
Leyland’s mother’s script told that there would be two men in her life.
The first, a younger man who loved her, but who she didn’t want to be with.
And the second, an older man, who she would marry but who wouldn’t love her in return.
This fascinating tale is the premise of one story in Leyland’s new collection, entitled Pezzi Pazzi (Crazy Pieces), out now through Clarendon House Publications.
The book, which is a mixed genre collection of creative writing, includes “short stories and fragments of poetry, with a mini novella as the centrepiece”.
It’s an eclectic collection which is infused with tales of the Italo-Australian migration experience.
Leyland was born in Newcastle, but grew up in Whyalla, an industrial steelworks town in South Australia.
Both Leyland’s parents are from Abruzzo, in central Italy, and Leyland said that although Whyalla was multicultural during the ‘60s and ‘70s when she was growing up, there was a clear divide between family life and the social.
“Outside the home there was no discussion about ethnicity, or culture, or the different foods you ate,” Leyland said.
“I didn’t have much of a life outside the family as they were very traditional, very controlling, and very ... protective.”
Perhaps because of this “closed off” relation to Italian and Abruzzese culture, in later years Leyland distanced herself from it.
She became a feminist and detached herself from Catholicism.
As she grew older she reconnected with her roots, and became interested in the family tree.
Her mother presented her with a box of photos after her maternal grandparents passed away, and Leyland began to ask questions, putting names to places and faces and trying to “link threads of story and understand the history”.
Leyland’s stories represent a change from a history that traditionally was orally passed on.
“No story had ever been written down in my family until I started to write a few things,” she said.
Of course, it hasn’t been easy, and just as Leyland’s family protected her while growing up, she now has a sense of protecting the family, while trying to tell the truth of things.
In between raising three kids, Leyland has worked most of her adult life as a social worker and has “heard a lot of stories”.
“Some of the stories are the same – they come from different people, but the stories repeat themselves,” Leyland explained.
“So what I’ve done in this collection is taken a few which are in my head, and I’ve woven them together, twisted them and embellished them.
“I call it faction; I don’t know if anyone else calls it that.
“It’s the truth but it’s a truth which protects peoples’ privacy and is put together in a way that is a little more interesting than reading a straight old history, or an essay about violence, sexual abuse or domestic violence.
“I’m telling stories which don’t normally get told.”
Inspired by the likes of Isabel Allende, who works in magic realism, and Helen Garner, a gritty realist, as well as Italo-Australian journalist and writer Anna-Maria Dell’Oso, the tales and poems move between Italy and Australia, different generations, and issues of mental health.
They are stories which cover a lot of ground, and perhaps it is this which inspired the title of the collection, Pezzi Pazzi (Crazy Pieces).
“A lot of us are dealing with mental health issues,” Leyland said.
“In life there are challenges we have to deal with and it’s so unpredictable and crazy in that sense too.
“Some of the book is very serious, but some of it is just fun; there’s a lot of fun word play in there.”
Giuseppina Marino Leyland’s book Pezzi Pazzi will be launched on Saturday, September 14, at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt.
RSVP to Pina via email by September 7, 2019, or call 0414 490 904.