AustLit logo
Reading Australia

Coordinated by Reading Australia Project
  • Looking for Alibrandi—A Reading Australia Information Trail

    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.

  • Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

    image of person or book cover
    Courtesy the publisher
    'Josephine Alibrandi is seventeen, illegitimate, and in her final year at a wealthy Catholic school. This is the year her father comes back into her life, the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family's past and the year she sets herself free.' (Source: Back Cover) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Melina Marchetta

    image of person or book cover
    Courtesy Reading Australia

    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.

    See full AustLit entry
  • —Introductory Essay: 'Looking for Alibrandi' by Alice Pung

    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)
    See full AustLit entry
  • —Adaptations

    Looking for Alibrandi was adapted into a film of the same name in 1999. You can read more about it at the Australian Screen website or watch the trailer below.

  • —Translations

    Looking for Alibrandi has been translated into many languages, including Italian, Polish, Danish, Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese and Slovenian.

  • Part One - Looking for Alibrandi's Settings: Historical and Geographical Settings

  • Geographical Setting for the Novel

    Location map from Australian Screen
    Australian Screen

    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.

    To read more about the history of Italians in North Queensland, see the Queensland Historical Atlas. Another book that examines this topic is Rebecca J. Huntley's The Italian Girl (UQP, 2012).

  • —Historical Settings

    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.

  • Part Two - Ideas of 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.

  • —'Who Josie Became Next: Developing Narratives of Ethnic Identity Formation in Italian Australian Literature and Film'

    Using an expanded and adapted conception of the Bildungsroman (or novel of development or formation), this thesis examines representations of Italian Australian identities through an analysis of selected English-language literary and film narratives produced by individuals of Italian descent in Australia since World War II. It draws upon critiques of the genre of the traditional Bildungsroman to further contribute to the conceptualisation of a related genre, the ethnic bildungsroman. In applying an interdisciplinary approach, the thesis critically analyses the processes of ethnic identity formation in these Italian Australian narratives in various socio-historical and literary contexts, with particular reference to the intersection of gender and ethnicity. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    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.

  • Part Three - Critical Responses to Looking for Alibrandi

    Below are academic essays and reviews about Looking for Alibrandi. Beware: some may contain spoilers.

  • —'Multiculturalism and Social Values in Australian Fiction'

    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)
    See full AustLit entry

    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.

  • —'Excuse Me Is Our Heritage Showing? Representations of Diasporic Experiences across the Generations'

    This paper examines the narration of diasporic experiences by writers of Italian descent. It investigates the ways in which relationships between ‘home’ and ‘destination’ cultures are negotiated across the generations. Narratives by three women writers, Rosa Cappiello, Anna Maria Dell’oso and Melina Marchetta are analysed to show how negotiating the tensions between nostalgia for the past and the needs of the present transforms and translates notions of ‘home’ for writers who are living ‘in between’ cultures. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    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.

  • —Review: Hoyden About Town

    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.

  • —'Multicultural Stepping Stones’

    Jodie Minus looks at the trajectory of Melina Marchetta's career from 'multicultural' to mainstream writer. Minus expresses the hope that Randa Abdel-Fattah will travel a similar path. 'We should look forward to the day', says Minus, 'when Abdel-Fattah no longer writes only about the problems facing Muslims, but about issues faced by all sorts of Australians'. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    Minus, Jodie. ‘Multicultural Stepping Stones.’ Australian Literary Review 1.2 (2006): 10.

  • Interviews with Melina Marchetta

    Interviews with an author can provide insight into their work, as well as into the author's life.

  • —Judith Ridge Interviews Melina Marchetta

    In this interview, Marchetta discusses the settings and characters of Looking for Alibrandi, as well as readers' reactions to the characters. She also discusses people's assumptions that the book is autobiographical, and the editing process for the book.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    First published in Viewpoint, this interview has also been republished on Judith Ridge's website.

    Ridge, Judith. 'Judith Ridge Interviews Melina Marchetta'. Viewpoint 1.1 (1993): 18-20. Available online at http://www.misrule.com.au/alibrandi.html. Sighted 06/12/2013.

  • —Penguin Presents Melina Marchetta

    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.

  • Further Reading

  • For further reading on related topics, consider the following AustLit searches:

You might be interested in...

X