ex­plor­ing com­mon hu­man­ity

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WIL­SON

IT is a long way from the small Ital­ian vil­lage of San Gi­nese to the quiet streets of Myrtle­ford. But au­thor Moreno Gio­van­noni, who was born in the vil­lage but spent much of his for­ma­tive years liv­ing in Buf­falo River – has strong ties to both places, as well as in­deli­ble mem­o­ries of his ex­pe­ri­ence as an im­mi­grant. “I grew up at Buf­falo River on a to­bacco farm, just past what we used to call John­son’s Bridge, so I ba­si­cally spent all my time there,” Moreno said. “I mostly came into town to go to school and that was it – the rest of the time I was fishing, or rid­ing my horse. “I did a bit of fer­ret­ing too. “I spent a lot of time sit­ting on river banks and day­dream­ing, and I also spent a lot of time lis­ten­ing to Bea­tles records on the back ve­ran­dah, look­ing out over the river flat where the to­bacco grew to the hills on the other side of the river.” Moreno has vivid mem­o­ries of the com­mu­nity in the 1960s and 70s. “In those days, Myrtle­ford and dis­trict was buzzing with share farm­ers and sea­sonal labour­ers at to­bacco pick­ing time” he said. “The Ital­ian com­mu­nity was enor­mous. “At the end of to­bacco sea­son dances were big oc­ca­sions when the grown ups would let their hair down. “The dances would be held in the grad­ing sheds and there would be tres­tle ta­bles cov­ered with food and drinks, and the kids would be play­ing hide and chasey un­der the ta­bles and out­side in the dark.”

Moreno said he has come back to the area for reg­u­lar vis­its over the years, in­clud­ing school re­unions. Wish­ing to cre­ate a record of the town he came from, as well as give peo­ple an in­sight into how mi­grants feel when leav­ing their home in search of a bet­ter life, Moreno re­cently pub­lished his de­but book, The Fireflies of Au­tumn. He said he wrote the book, full of sto­ries about the vil­lage of San Gi­nese, in “fits and starts” over the course of eight years af­ter re­flect­ing on the life his par­ents had led, and added that by writ­ing about the strug­gles and feel­ings of im­mi­grants, he wanted to un­der­line the things peo­ple have in com­mon. Re­flect­ing on the cur­rent in­su­lar and na­tion­al­ist global po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, Moreno said “the more peo­ple know about each other, es­pe­cially about peo­ple who on the sur­face look dif­fer­ent, with dif­fer­ent cus­toms, re­li­gions and so on, the bet­ter it is, be­cause in the end you see that there are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween peo­ple, re­gard­less of where they come from”. He pointed out that there was a time peo­ple were dis­trust­ful and wary of those in the Catholic com­mu­nity, and many were dis­crim­i­nated against in work and other ar­eas of their lives. “It’s when you don’t know about the way of life of other peo­ple that you can be­come so wor­ried about them, and it’s then that nasty politi­cians ex­ploit the fear we have about peo­ple we don’t know,” Moreno said. “In­ter­ac­tion and knowl­edge of each other’s his­to­ries and sto­ries is one way to break down bar­ri­ers. “Get out there and eat to­gether, and talk, and visit each other’s houses and get the chil­dren to play to­gether.” Moreno said writ­ing the book was an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. “Writ­ing the book and get­ting it pub­lished has been an emo­tional roller­coaster,” he said. “It’s one of the great­est things I’ve ever done in my life and I’m grate­ful to all the peo­ple up here, the Pre­sen­ta­tion nuns es­pe­cially, who gave me an ed­u­ca­tion, nur­tured my cu­ri­ousity and en­cour­aged me.” Moreno said he will come back to the North East more reg­u­larly in the near fu­ture, par­tic­u­larly to gather more in­for­ma­tion and talk to lo­cal sources for his next book, which will be set in the area and fo­cus on Ital­ian com­mu­ni­ties. “I look for­ward to it,” he said. The Fireflies of Au­tumn is pub­lished by Black Inc Books and is out now.

PHOTO: Tate Spi­teri

BACK IN TOWN: Moreno Gio­van­noni in Mytle­ford dur­ing a re­cent visit to launch his new book, The Fireflies of Au­tumn.

PROUD ACHIEVE­MENT: Moreno Gi­a­van­noni’s book evokes the im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence.

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