In post-World War II America, who ever heard of an Italian Jew? Author Eleanor Foa born in Italy raised in America, daughter of a brilliant father, whose Italian-Jewish roots trace back to 16th-century printers, was proud of her exotic roots yet knew little about her lineage. In 2006, accompanied by her sister, she retraces the footsteps of their ancestors through northern Italy and reconnects with relatives in Turin, Naples, and Rome. It’s both a physical and psychological journey during which the past illuminates the present.
Mixed Messages is both a universal tale of exile, family and generational conflict, and the history of a remarkable family whose successes and tragedies mirror the flowering of Italian Jewish life from the mid-fifteen hundreds, to its dispersal destruction and partial resurrection during and after the rise of Fascism. It is also, in part, about the paradox of being told “family is everything” while growing up without family, and the need to untangle a legacy of mixed messages – about marriage, money, fidelity, religion,and identity – once her parents are gone.