Bernardi, Adria 1957-

views updated

BERNARDI, Adria 1957-


Born 1957; married; children: one daughter. Education: Graduated from Carleton College; University of Chicago, M.A.


Home—Worcester, MA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Pittsburgh Press, Eureka Building, Fifth Floor, 3400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15260.




Editors' Prize, Missouri Review, 1998, for short story "Hep-Lock"; Katherine Bakeless Nason Literary Publication Prize for Fiction, Bread-loaf Writers' Conference, 1999, for The Day Laid on the Altar; Drue Heinz Literature Prize, 2000, for In the Gathering Woods; Breadloaf Writers' Conference fellow, 2000; A. E. Coppard Award for Short Fiction; James fellowship, Heeking Group Foundation.


Houses with Names: The Italian Immigrants of Highwood, Illinois, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1990.

(Translator) Tonino Guerra, Abandoned Places: Poems, Guernica (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

The Day Laid on the Altar (novel), University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 2000.

(Translator) Gianni Celati, Adventures in Africa, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.

In the Gathering Woods (short stories), University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2000.

(Translator) Rafaello Baldini, Carta Canta (title means "Page Proof"), Bordighera (Boca Raton, FL), 2001.

Contributor of fiction to publications, including Santa Monica Review, Voices in Italian Americana, and River Oak Review.


Adria Bernardi is an acclaimed novelist and short-story writer. Her works include the Bakeless Prize-winning novel, The Day Laid on the Altar, and the Drue Heinz Literature Prize-winning short story collection, In the Gathering Woods. She has also translated works by Italian authors Tonino Guerra, Gianni Celati, and Raffaello Baldini and has written an oral history collection titled Houses with Names: The Italian Immigrants of Highwood, Illinois.

Bernardi's first novel, The Day Laid on the Altar, follows the stories of Bartolomeo de Bartolai and Martin de Martinelli, two artists in sixteenth-century Italy, who set out to make their marks in artistic endeavors and get beyond their lives in the mountain village of Apennines. Bartolomeo, a shepherd enduring crushing poverty, puts together delicate mosaics in his mountainside cave. Martin, Bartolomeo's best friend, travels as an itinerant artisan, painting church frescoes in Venice and Florence, all the while battling loneliness. The stories of these two artists are set against that of Titian Vecellio, a renowned artist who spends his time creating art and dealing with his children. The storylines interconnect to describe the lives of three artists from different classes but who are dealing with similar issues.

Critics were largely positive in their assessment of The Day Laid on the Altar. Mark Rotella in Library Journal described the book as a "beautifully written novel." Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, lauded Bernardi's ability to weave the three stories into a "superb evocation" of sixteenth-century Italy. A Publishers Weekly critic faulted the novel for having too sweeping a scope, but described Bernardi's prose as "near-flawless." Bernardi "shapes this novel's many pieces into a mosaic that's as artful as anything Bartolomeo creates in his cave," commented New York Times Book Review critic Catherine Osborne.

In the Gathering Woods is a collection of stories exploring the Italian experience, with settings ranging from Renaissance Italy to twentieth-century Chicago. The stories are organized somewhat chronologically and are tied together loosely by common or related characters. In the title story, a young boy learns to differentiate between edible and poisonous mushrooms growing freely in his homeland while learning about his family and village history; his grandfather's lessons in mycology include tales of ancestors who died after eating the wrong type of mushroom. In "The Coal Miner, Above Ground," a family immigrates to America to work the mines and send money back home to Italy, but finds American culture, symbols, and icons becoming an increasingly important part of their emotional makeup. In "Rustlings," a young Italian mother in America discovers that "part of becoming an American is 'to unlearn what things were called,' replacing Italian with a flawless, unaccented English," observed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. She learns, however, that replacing her Italian language does not replace her Italian consciousness. A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that Bernardi's "somber stories have the outlines of a grand family saga but settle for the minor pleasures of competent ethnic fiction." GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, on the other hand, called In the Gathering Woods "fiction worthy of award." Chicago's Tribune Books reviewer Laura Demanski, writing about the effect of the story "Waiting for Giotto," noted that the tale's resonance is "a whisper whose beauty and mystery would have been crushed in the hands of a writer less delicate."

Houses with Names: The Italian Immigrants of Highwood, Illinois comprises a collection of interviews detailing the Italian immigration experience. This oral history collection is based on the recollections of more than forty Italian immigrants who later settled in Highwood, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. All the immigrants profiled were born in Italy between 1886 and 1910. "Bernardi attempts to reconstruct the world in which these people worked, lived, and created meaning," observed John Bodnar in Oral History Review. Though these oral histories tend to focus on the economic hardships encountered in America, Bodnar noted, the stories also feature "strong women and adaptable men who found ways to surmount the problems they faced." Reviewer R. Bayor, writing in Choice, remarked that the combination of these oral histories and Bernardi's third-generation perspective results in an "enjoyable and informative work." Bodnar concluded that the stories reveal "memories that are simultaneously complex and richly descriptive of the times in which these immigrants lived."



Booklist, August, 2000, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Day Laid on the Altar, p. 2108; October 1, 2000, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of In the Gathering Woods, p. 322.

Choice, May, 1990, R. Bayor, review of Houses with Names: The Italian Immigrants of Highwood, Illinois, p. 1568.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2000, review of In the Gathering Woods.

Library Journal, September 1, 2000, Mark Rotella, review of The Day Laid on the Altar, p. 248; September 1, 2000, Mark Rotella, review of In the Gathering Woods, p. 248.

New York Times Book Review, October 1, 2000, Catherine Osborne, review of The Day Laid on the Altar, p. 19.

Oral History Review, spring-summer, 1991, John Bodnar, review of Houses with Names, pp. 148-150.

Publishers Weekly, July 31, 2000, review of The Day Laid on the Altar, p. 71; September 11, 2000, review of In the Gathering Woods, p. 70.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), February 11, 1990, Ed Marciniak, review of Houses with Names, p. 7; April 9, 2001, Laura Demanski, review of In the Gathering Woods, p. 2.

Washington Post Book World, November 28, 2000, Jabari Asim, review of Adventures in Africa, p. C2.

World Literature Today, spring, 2000, Patricia M. Gathercole, review of Abandoned Places: Poems, p. 430.


Poetry Oasis Web site, (October 4, 2004).*