Today, on our website, we have a guest. Here with us is Matteo Grimaldi, author of La Famiglia X who joins us to tell us about his book.
Hi Matteo, first of all welcome, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Thank you! I’m a man from Abruzzo with big hopes that I try to instil in my novels. I’ve lived in Florence for four years and aside from writing, I work in a book shop. I’m crazy about good books, chocolate, and my aloe plant with which I make sure to talk every day.
Can you tell us about your book “La Famiglia X”?
La Famiglia X is the story of Michael, a 13-year-old boy who gets taken from his biological parents and entrusted under the care of Davide and Enea, a couple of young dads. Michael will go through the sudden changes brought on by his circumstances but will be accompanied on this journey by special people he has never met before. I like the idea that life, even when it pushes you into troubled times, also offers you a light in the darkness that you have only to look for, together with the people that you didn’t know you needed and who can change your life for the better. La Famiglia X is geared toward a young audience, but I believe it can and should be read by adults too.
How did you come up with the idea of a story of a family with two dads?
On the internet, I came across the account of two moms who talked about their experience with fostering a child who, in the beginning, didn’t want anything to do with them. Foster families are a unique relationship because, by definition, it will sooner or later end. It’s not like adoption. I was struck by the strength of these women who were ready to give even while knowing that the relationship would eventually come to an end. The unpredictable evolution of feelings that, during the months together, made the three of them an unbreakable family. And so I read further on, made research, met same-sex families, talked to psychologists and professionals who work with children, and decided that it was a story that needed to be told.
Are you particularly aware of themes around gender?
I’m interested in impactful stories, in strong emotions, in the rage and injustices of our social and legislative distortions. Not necessarily about gender. And I strongly believe in the power of literature to fill those spaces with its voice.
Are you interested in further exploring this subject?
There’s a lot to be said about same-sex families and the rights that deserved to be recognised to them and their children. What I wanted to highlight was the importance of talking about the subject. I do it every day on my page and get a lot of hate from people who disagree. But I don’t get tired, because they are untouchable rights and they should be granted to all.
Tell us about the Facebook scandal. Is it true that your book was censored? Why do you think that happened?
Yes, I woke up on a beautiful day and found all the contents of my page completely restricted, especially the ones linked to my novel which, because of mass reporting by homophobic groups that I later succeeded in identifying, was deemed by Facebook “adult content with sexually explicit themes”, total nonsense when considering that, as I already said, it is a children’s novel. Furthermore, and even more gravely, Facebook had also blocked its sale.
Did you receive a lot of support following the event?
An unthinkably huge support. Thousands of reshares of the cover by readers and crew. Both newspapers and radio stations talked about it. And, as it is often the case, the censorship had the exact opposite effect: a supportive and mass spread of the work. I felt embraced by thousands of people in a moment when, for a second, I had felt alone in the world and completely powerless.
Do you think there are a lot of people, today, for whom a story like yours can create discomfort?
Unfortunately, yes, and I didn’t know it would be so many. I see it every day on my page. But they haven’t read my book, I don’t even know if they’ve ever opened a book at all. However, they are a minority compared to the readers who love La Famiglia X and the story it tells, and they act on it daily, recommending it to others and helping it get spread.
As well as being a writer, are you also a reader? Who are your favourite authors, either Italian or from abroad?
I always carry a book with me, and this is a very difficult question. I’ve loved reading Stephen King‘s stories. I remember my summers in Caporciano, a small town near L’Aquila, and being trapped in the creepy atmospheres of his villages governed by terrible balances and characters. I grew up reading De Carlo, Baricco, Isabella Santacroce, Benni, and then later in life, I discovered the classics and I’m very happy I did. Whutering Heights, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, and the extraordinary world of Les Misérables, but I could mention many more.
I would also recommend David Leavitt, whose novels are mirrors of reality: I haven’t found anyone else who can talk about the worst feelings we have to deal with like him. Actually, I have, Philip Roth, a giant. American Pastoral broke my heart, as did the news of his death. Nowadays I read a lot of children’s literature. I’m currently reading Fuorigioco a Berlino by Christian Antonini, a story of friendship and football set in a Berlin marked by division. And for those who want to dive in the world of children’s books, that are often considered second-rate, but are actually astounding, I want to mention another big name: Marie-Aude Murail, all of her books.
What is a book, not one of yours, that you’d like to recommend?
One that I haven’t mentioned before, but has been on top of my list of favourites for years: Stoner by John Williams. It is a masterpiece of sensitivity and simplicity, an everyday story told with an extraordinary writing style that manages to let the protagonist’s emotions jump out and leave a mark. Everyone should read it!
Do books really have the power to open minds?
Of course they do, books have the same power water has over stones. They act slowly, silently through the years, and shape our minds into exceptional sculptures. People who read are a step ahead, but maybe even two or three. And it shows.
Give us three reasons why everyone should read your book.
Because it’s an honest story; because Michael is the type of protagonist with whom I’ve developed an unbreakable friendship that I can’t let go of; and to reflect on a subject that affects everyone: emotions and rights.
Share with us an excerpt from your book.
Alright, here’s the moment when Michael meets Davide and Enea for the first time, in the presence of Clara and Franco, the social workers overlooking his case.
I open the door to the office. Inside there are two guys talking with Clara. I’ll wait for my turn, I think, excusing myself and starting to pull it closed again, but Franco stops me with a hand on the glass.
«So, how was your return to school?» Clara asks me with a smile.
«Six out of ten».
I could say more if I wasn’t feeling so crowded. And those two are staring at me.
«These are Enea and Davide».
Davide has dark skin and a mess of black curls on his head. He looks Egyptian. He clings to the other by the jacket and pulls him toward me. He shakes my hand and says: «It’s very nice to meet you, Michael».
Then he moves away and leaves some space for the other who, to the shake of his hand, adds a clumsy curtsy.
«Enea and Davide went back to live in Girone. Enea lived there until he was eighteen, then he came to work in the city. Davide renovated the house, he’s an architect».
«You should see how beautiful it turned out,» he interjects.
Enea turns to him with a start as if to scold him for interrupting Clara, and he makes a funny face in apology.
«Enea has a degree in Mathematics and currently works in a bank».
Enea, what a strange name for a mathematician. I would have expected Albert, Isaac, Alan, or Pythagoras even, which I’m still not sure if it is the name, the surname, or a stage name.
«Ok, but why was I brought here? Are there any news about my parents?»
Clara’s expression turns dark.
«Your mom and dad are fine, Michael. They’re on a very complex path that will help them back on their feet, and they need to concentrate on that. They need time».
«I could stay with Ms. Guerra».
«We’re very grateful to Ms. Guerra, but we’d like for you not to feel like a guest. So we thought of a solution. Enea and Davide are a couple. They came to us one day and told us how happy they would be of taking care of someone who’s going through a rough patch. We think you would be very happy with them».
«And what makes you think that?»
«Because we’ve gotten to know them, Michael. And we’d like you to try too».
Thank you for being with us today and for letting us get to know you and your work. Would you like to leave one last message for our readers?
First of all, thank you for getting to the end of this interview! And then I would like to invite you all to always try and go beyond appearances, because sometimes that’s where you’ll find the most genuine parts. Thank you for having me and happy reading to all!
Review by: KeiLeela Translation by: Chiara Tornincasa