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Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy
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Dey Street Books 2017
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"A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies...Murder in Matera is a gem." San Francisco Chronicle

"Tantalizing" NPR

"A thrilling detective story... Stapinski pursues the study of her family's criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results." — Library Journal

A writer goes deep into the heart of Italy to unravel a century-old family mystery in this spellbinding memoir that blends the suspenseful twists of Making a Murderer and the emotional insight of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels.

Since childhood, Helene Stapinski heard lurid tales about her great-great-grandmother, Vita. In Southern Italy, she was a loose woman who had murdered someone. Immigrating to America with three children, she lost one along the way. Helene's youthful obsession with Vita deepened as she grew up, eventually propelling the journalist to Italy, where, with her own children in tow, she pursued the story, determined to set the record straight.

Finding answers would take Helene ten years and numerous trips to Basilicata, the rural "instep" of Italy's boot—a mountainous land rife with criminals, superstitions, old-world customs, and desperate poverty. Though false leads sent her down blind alleys, Helene's dogged search, aided by a few lucky—even miraculous—breaks and a group of colorful local characters, led her to the truth.

Yes, the family tales she'd heard were true: There had been a murder in Helene's family, a killing that roiled 1870s Italy. But the identities of the killer and victim weren't who she thought they were. In revisiting events that happened more than a century before, Helene came to another stunning realization—she wasn't who she thought she was, either.

Weaving Helene's own story of discovery with the tragic tale of Vita's life, Murder in Matera is a literary whodunit and a moving tale of self-discovery that brings into focus a long ago tragedy in a little-known region remarkable for its stunning sunny beauty and dark buried secrets.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/23/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062438447
ASIN:
B01L6R7UY4
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APA Citation (style guide)

Helene Stapinski. (2017). Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. Dey Street Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Helene Stapinski. 2017. Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. Dey Street Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Helene Stapinski, Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. Dey Street Books, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Helene Stapinski. Murder In Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy. Dey Street Books, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Helene Stapinski is the author of Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, which recounts her family's criminal history, and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music, which chronicles her years playing drums in a rock band in Manhattan. She has written extensively for the New York Times as well as for New York magazine, Salon, Travel & Leisure, and dozens of other publications and essay collections. On the documentary based on Five-Finger Discount, she has worked as a producer and writer. Stapinski has been a radio newscaster in Alaska; has appeared on National Public Radio; was a featured performer with The Moth; has lectured at her alma mater, Columbia University; and has taught at Fordham University. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

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shortDescription

"A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies...Murder in Matera is a gem." San Francisco Chronicle

"Tantalizing" NPR

"A thrilling detective story... Stapinski pursues the study of her family's criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results." — Library Journal

A writer goes deep into the heart of Italy to unravel a century-old family mystery in this spellbinding memoir that blends the suspenseful twists of Making a Murderer and the emotional insight of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels.

Since childhood, Helene Stapinski heard lurid tales about her great-great-grandmother, Vita. In Southern Italy, she was a loose woman who had murdered someone. Immigrating to America with three children, she lost one along the way....

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title
Murder In Matera
fullDescription

"A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies...Murder in Matera is a gem." San Francisco Chronicle

"Tantalizing" NPR

"A thrilling detective story... Stapinski pursues the study of her family's criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results." — Library Journal

A writer goes deep into the heart of Italy to unravel a century-old family mystery in this spellbinding memoir that blends the suspenseful twists of Making a Murderer and the emotional insight of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels.

Since childhood, Helene Stapinski heard lurid tales about her great-great-grandmother, Vita. In Southern Italy, she was a loose woman who had murdered someone. Immigrating to America with three children, she lost one along the way. Helene's youthful obsession with Vita deepened as she grew up, eventually propelling the journalist to Italy, where, with her own children in tow, she pursued the story, determined to set the record straight.

Finding answers would take Helene ten years and numerous trips to Basilicata, the rural "instep" of Italy's boot—a mountainous land rife with criminals, superstitions, old-world customs, and desperate poverty. Though false leads sent her down blind alleys, Helene's dogged search, aided by a few lucky—even miraculous—breaks and a group of colorful local characters, led her to the truth.

Yes, the family tales she'd heard were true: There had been a murder in Helene's family, a killing that roiled 1870s Italy. But the identities of the killer and victim weren't who she thought they were. In revisiting events that happened more than a century before, Helene came to another stunning realization—she wasn't who she thought she was, either.

Weaving Helene's own story of discovery with the tragic tale of Vita's life, Murder in Matera is a literary whodunit and a moving tale of self-discovery that brings into focus a long ago tragedy in a little-known region remarkable for its stunning sunny beauty and dark buried secrets.

sortTitle
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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content: "The style is streetwise Hemingway, the theme is Faulkner in a nutshell."
      • premium: False
      • source: Gay Talese, author of Unto the Sons and The Voyeur’s Motel
      • content: "Murder in Matera is a remarkable family saga that captures the beauty and grit of southern Italy. The powerful and complicated matriarch at the center of Stapinski's tale will stay with you long after you finish the book."
      • premium: False
      • source: Meghan Daum, author of The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects Of Discussion
      • content: "This book is many things: a gripping murder story, an ancestral journey, a tender yet funny reflection on motherhood and love of country, family, and food. But mostly it's just a total page turner. Helene Stapinski is incapable of delivering a dull moment."
      • premium: False
      • source: Mark Rotella, author of Amore: The Story of Italian American Song and Stolen Figs: And Other Adventures in Calabria
      • content: "Meticulously researched and evocative, Murder in Matera is a powerful story of identity and destiny—and it's honestly, beautifully told."
      • premium: False
      • source: Newsday
      • content: "Fascinating and informative . . . Stapinski's description of the near-feudal life in southern Italy in the 19th century is compelling."
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: "A thrilling detective story. . . . Stapinski pursues the study of her family's criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "Entertaining...part memoir, part murder mystery...Stapinski retells her decadelong search for the truth about the early life of her great-great grandmother Vita."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "An enticing page-turner . . . a rollicking, magical tale."
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist
      • content: "Stapinski's research reveals a tragic, twisty history"
      • premium: False
      • source: San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: "A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies...Stapinski artfully teases out the suspense and the often shocking revelations that she shares here, fearlessly, about her family's cherished and most troubling myths...Murder in Matera is a gem."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        March 6, 2017
        Italian-American author Stapinski (Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History) mines her immigrant family’s roots to write a part memoir, part murder mystery that is entertaining in its plot if not elevating in its prose (“Ma would tell me about Vita as we sat in our bright yellow kitchen in Jersey City, New Jersey, circa 1969”). Combining nonfiction reportage and family history, Stapinski retells her decadelong search for the truth about the early life of her great-great-grandmother Vita and the murder she allegedly committed nearly two hundred years ago in her small Basilicata village before fleeing to the United States. The author posits that the darker side of her genealogy may have consequences for her own family: “All of us, I thought, are made up not only of what we know, but of all that we don’t know as well,” she writes—as if the violence, revenge, and curses that accrued along with ignorance and poverty in Southern Italy in the 19th-century are somehow transmitted through DNA. The book—enlivened by anecdotes about Italian culture—will appeal to armchair travelers who long to visit the caves and culture of Matera.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2017
        Stapinski (English/Fordham Univ.; Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music, 2004, etc.) continues her investigation into her family's checkered past.The narrative begins as an enticing page-turner, an investigative jewel sending readers racing to the next clue, as the author strikes out to find the truth about her great-great-grandmother Vita, "a murderess." A trip to Stapinski's ancestral home, Bernalda, in the Basilicata region of Italy's instep, with her mother produced little information and a warning from hostile locals to let the past die. The oral history, jumbled and changed over generations, declared that Vita left for America in 1892 with three children, all from different fathers, losing one on the trip. At the time, a woman traveling without her husband was highly unusual, and the tales that Vita had committed murder compounded the mystery. Stapinski was fearful that her family, and her children, might carry the so-called "warrior gene." Was the history of aggressive and criminal behavior in her genes unavoidable? Ten years after her first visit, the author headed back to Bernalda, this time equipped with research assistants and translators. A series of serendipitous encounters and acquaintances led Stapinski to a lawyer who knew the workings of the local legal system and, most importantly, steered her to Potenza, where a murder trial would have taken place. After, more digging into documents and local lore led to further questions and few concrete answers. Where were the fathers when Vita's children were born? How did she lose one of her children? The author includes a cast of characters for "Now" and "Then," and many of them are vivid and colorful in their own rights, but by the end, the narrative becomes overly imaginative, not grounded enough to satisfy as investigative history. The book begins as a rollicking, magical tale but eventually bogs down in too much conjecture.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 15, 2017

        Here, writer Stapinski (Five-Finger Discount) pursues the study of her family's criminal genealogy with unexpected emotional results. Having grown up with tales of roguish relatives and even a murder, the author began a ten-year search for the facts of the alleged murder involving her great-great-grandparents Vita and Francesco. The venture required multiple trips to Basilicata, a southern Italian region with colorful inhabitants and a dismal past. Despite initial roadblocks, interviews were conducted and a valuable criminal file and archival information unearthed. Revelations about the murder itself, Francesco's incarceration and demise, and Vita's new life with a wealthier man of surprising significance to the family are engagingly conveyed. The author also reconstructs the harrowing details of Vita's journey to America in 1892, including the loss of a child. The book concludes with a testimony of gratitude and admiration for Vita rather than shame for any misdeeds. VERDICT Combining elements of a travelog about an unlikely tourist destination, quirky family history, and a thrilling detective story, this entertaining memoir should appeal to fans of the author's earlier work and general readers interested in immigration history.--Antoinette Brinkman, formerly with Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Ev ansville

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

subtitle
A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy
popularity
368
publisher
Dey Street Books
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