First_We_Eat

First We Eat: Growing Up in Val di Comino, Italy

“On the farm, first you worked, then you had breakfast.”

Born to poor tenant farmers in rural Italy in 1950, Giuseppe Schiavo’s mother, who already has ten children and is ill, gives her newborn baby away to her best friend to nurse. Carmela Cedrone and her husband Domenico, whose five children all died in childbirth, welcome Giuseppe with open arms. He happily grows up with his stepparents in an old stone farmhouse.

When he turns ten, Giuseppe’s birth parents suddenly reclaim him and immediately put him to work on their farm. Eventually, his birth father makes him quit school. In one day, Giuseppe goes from the beloved only child of landowners to a stranger in his birth family of sharecroppers.

In this collection of short stories, Giuseppe describes his journey from cherished adopted stepson to child farm labourer to his immigration to Canada, where he becomes a well-respected master stonemason who lives by the words:

“First we eat. Then we do.”

Paperback and eBook editions available on Amazon.ca.

Cover design by Sarah Kim.