Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta is a story about family relationships, identity, and growing up. It is set in Sydney.
– Part One of this trail looks at the novel's historical and geographical settings.
– Part Two looks at its various representations of identity.
– Part Three draws together critical responses to the novel. The trail finishes by providing links to interviews with the author and suggestions for further reading. Some of these critical works and other resources are available to read online.
Click the hyperlinks in the citations below to be taken to the full text.
Melina Marchetta was born in Sydney and left school after grade ten to work for a major Australian bank. She later worked as a consultant for a travel company and travelled to England, China, the (then) Soviet Union, and the United States of America. She then completed a teaching degree and went on to teach at a Roman Catholic high school.
While working as a bank officer, Marchetta began writing the novel Looking for Alibrandi (1992), a story of a third-generation Italian-Australian schoolgirl who experiences love, death, and the secrets of her family's past.
Written for the Reading Australia project, this essay serves as an introduction to Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi. Pung discusses the importance of the novel to herself personally, and how it influenced her as a writer. Pung discusses the narrative voice of Josie Alibrandi, and how the novel represents identity, class, and relationships (with family, friends, and boyfriends).(...more)
Looking for Alibrandi is set in inner-west Sydney, especially Glebe. Josie's Catholic school is in Darlinghurst, and she works at a McDonalds on Parramatta Rd, near Sydney University. Jacob Coote lives in Redfern (which is also, incidentally, the setting for part of Swallow the Air, another book with a Reading Australia trail.) Josie attends 'Have a Say Day' in Martin Place in the city; Martin Place also appears in Les Murray's famous poem 'An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow' (1967), which is available on Murray's website. Australian Screen has produced a map of locations for the film adaptation of Looking for Alibrandi.
Aside from the Sydney settings, the book also mentions Josie's Nonna Katia's experiences arriving in Australia from Sicily, and her time in Ingham, north Queensland.
While the specific temporal setting of the novel is not mentioned, it seems to take place in the early 1990s. There are no mobile phones and no mentions of the internet. The novel was published around the same time as Cloudstreet (1991), another book featured in a Reading Australia trail. The production of both books would have corresponded with or occurred relatively soon after Australia's bicentennial year, a time of debate about national identity.
Identity is a very important theme in the novel, with Josie having multiple identities: as a teenage, middle-class girl; scholarship recipient; daughter of a single mother; (as the novel progresses) daughter of Michael Andretti; third-generation Italian Australian; friend and possible girlfriend. The resources below also consider identity within the novel.
Carniel, Jessica Rita. Who Josie Became Next: Developing Narratives of Ethnic Identity Formation in Italian Australian Literature and Film. PhD thesis. The Australian Centre and the Department of History (Gender Studies Program). Melbourne: The University of Melbourne, 2006. Online. Sighted 06/12/2013.
Fernandez discusses developments in contemporary Australia regarding ethnic identities through a reading of Alan Baille's Secrets of Walden Rising and Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi. In relation to the changing nature of Australia's 'ethnic mix', Fernandez views both texts as examples of Australian literature that 'mediates the conflicts between two or more distinct cultures as well as hybrid cultures that have arisen from generation to generation' (p.39). A common feature of multicultural narratives says Fernandez, is the 'breakdown of existing structures of society and the representation of individuals as well as whole communities in a state of transition' (p.(...more)
Fernandez, Maria Jose. 'Multiculturalism and Social Values in Australian Fiction: Allan Baillie's Secrets of Walden Rising and Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi.' Papers: Explorations Into Children’s Literature 11.3 (2001): 39-46.
Wilson, Rita. ‘Excuse Me Is Our Heritage Showing? Representations of Diasporic Experiences across the Generations.’ FULGOR 3.3 (2008). Online at http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/24784/20120503-0000/ehlt.flinders.edu.au/deptlang/fulgor/volume3i3/papers/Wilsonv3i308.pdf. Sighted 06/12/2013.
This review contains spoilers, as it gives an overview of the book before discussing its importance.
'Book Week: Looking for Alibrandi.’ Rev. of Looking for Alibrandi, by Melina Marchetta. Hoyden About Town. Aug. 22 2012. Online at http://hoydenabouttown.com/20120822.12207/book-week-looking-for-alibrandi/. Sighted 06/12/2013.
Minus, Jodie. ‘Multicultural Stepping Stones.’ Australian Literary Review 1.2 (2006): 10.
In this short film, Melina Marchetta talks about leaving school at fifteen, returning to study as a mature-age university student, and the writing process. The latter half of the film focuses on her novel The Piper's Son.
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