To those who have wondered who built the modern facade of downtown Toronto: Portuguese and Italian immigrant labourers.
This collection of linked stories gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Portuguese. Beginning in Amendoeiro, a small town across the river from Lisbon, it describes lives of abject poverty during the fascist rule of Antonio Salazar. The men often find themselves out of work from the oppressive local cork factory, the dreaded secret police keeping an eye on them, while the women collect scraps to eat. It is a life of abuse, cruelty, and superstition, observed by the girl Milita, who receives regular beatings from her mother but misses nothing. We meet a cast of unforgettable characters–the mother who claims rape forced her into marriage; the gentle and detached father who finds solace in his chicken coop; the local prostitutes, whose house is always full, whatever the economic circumstances; the mysterious upper-class, outcaste woman in black who wanders the street; the priest who takes advantage; the mysterious bruxo who wards off evil; the wealthy in the nearby town of Montijo. Finally the father goes off to Toronto and finds work in construction, the family follows, and Milita–forced into marriage at fifteen–escapes the household with her lover to find freedom and a career. This is a gripping and unique collection full of local colour (rural Portugal and Toronto), the early part of which is reminiscent of early Jose Saramago.
Carmelinda Scian emigrated to Canada from Portugal as a teenager in the late 1960s with her parents. After marriage and two children, she obtained a BA and an English MA from the University of Toronto on a part time basis while operating a hair salon. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines across Canada, the USA, and Britain and have won several prizes, including the Malahat Revew's Open Season Award, the Toronto Star Short Story Prize. The story "Yellow Watch" was nominated for Canada's Journey Prize. She lives in Toronto.