05 Oct Eleanor M. Imperato, Writer, Poet & Photographer: Member Spotlight
Today we’re excited to feature an interview with Eleanor M. Imperato, a freelance writer, poet, and photographer, and an active member of our Long Island Network. Eleanor immigrated from Italy to New York as a child and her work eloquently expresses her connection to her native land.
This Thursday, October 8, Eleanor’s photographic essay, Doors of Memory / Porte della memoria, on old doors from Avella, Italy, will open at the QCC Art Gallery, Queensborough Community College, in Bayside, Queens, in New York City, where it will remain on display until January 10, 2016.
The book she wrote to accompany the exhibit, also entitled Doors of Memory / Porte della memoria, is a memoir in prose and poetry of her early years and subsequent visits to her birthplace, Avella, Italy. Richly illustrated with the photographs on exhibit, as well as other views of the town and its iconic sites, it also gives a brief overview of Avella’s history.
Eleanor has traveled extensively since her immigration to the United States from Italy. As a college student spending her junior year in London, England, she toured Great Britain from Land’s End to the Scottish Highlands and trekked all over Europe. She continued to explore far-flung parts of the world: Timbuktu, Macau, Beirut, Tehran, Nairobi, Chichicastenango, Belo Horizonte …. not to mention Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Nome, Alaska, where she ran in a dog sled race! Antarctica is her next destination.
All those experiences have fed her creativity and she has expressed it in her work. After doing field research in Kenya, Eleanor co-authored a biography of Martin and Osa Johnson, They Married Adventure, with her husband, Pascal James Imperato. She is the author of Woman’s Work, her first collection of poems. Her second, Purple Sins, is in preparation. In addition, she is collaborating with her sisters Patrizia Maiella, translator of Doors of Memory / Porte della memoria and Tonia Maiella, on a book about their Italian-American experiences during the late 1950s and 1960s in New York City.
Eleanor loves sharing her interests in philosophy, history, art and dance with her children, Alison, Gavin, and Austin, and her husband Pat. She lives in Manhasset, Long Island where since the early 80s she has served the community occupying many volunteer executive leadership positions.
1. How did you hear about NOIAW?
I was invited to a NOIAW Christmas luncheon on Long Island several years ago and subsequently attended an event with Laurie Fabiano, author of Elizabeth Street. On both occasions, I was struck by the professionalism and the outstanding accomplishments of Italian American women as exemplified by the NOIAW membership. They were fully engaged in the mainstream of American life while at the same time cognizant and proud of their Italian heritage. I decided to join NOIAW because I felt that the organization promoted the best of Italian culture and values without pandering to stereotypes. I have since become part of the NOIAW Long Island Network and helped organize several events.
2. How has your NOIAW membership helped you personally and/or professionally so far?
NOIAW has brought me in contact with other women with whom I have shared interests and goals. It has increased the audience for my work, this interview being a direct result of my involvement in the organization.
3. Tell me about your connection with your Italian heritage. How has it influenced your life and your career?
The best way I can answer this question is to quote a couple of paragraphs from my book Doors of Memory / Porte della memoria where I describe the view from the castle, on a hilltop above the town where I was born.
This is my heritage.
This land shapes me, lives in me. It explains who I am and what I love. I am American, I am Italian. Like the castle, I am Norman, Swabian, and Lombard. Like Avella and its settlers, I am Oscan, Etruscan, and Roman. Like the succession of rulers that governed this land, I am Austrian, Spanish, and French. I know now what this place has instilled in me: a love of history, of people, of beauty, of adventure, of solitude, of fortitude.
I am spellbound.
The Italian heritage that encompasses the glory of Rome and the splendor of the Renaissance is my birthright. With both pride and humility, I am willing to share it with anyone else who feels an affinity for this wonderful country.
For the rest, you will just have to immerse yourself in my book, since it blends the three creative outlets that make me who I am: prose, poetry, and photography.
4. Do you have a favorite memory of your Italian family?
I have many memories of my Italian family in Avella, and I recount the earliest ones in my book. Although I lived in Naples with my parents from the age of 5 until 12 when I came to the US, it is summer in Avella that I remember the most. These memories stand out: the languor of a hot day whether it was a nap in a cool room in my grandparents’ house, or a walk through deserted streets; my grandmother’s omelets in the morning or coffee in the late afternoon, my grandfather’s workshop and our walks together in the campagna; the warm welcome my aunts and uncles always gave me whenever I visited them, and their care in preparing my favorite dishes.
There are two recent memories that are meaningful to me. Since my sisters and my extended family all live in Italy, we’ve instituted a yearly get together in Puglia. My sisters, their families, and assorted cousins, all gather together in a country restaurant and spend the better part of a day catching up on news and savoring a special meal. The other is a delicious picnic prepared by Angelina, my cousin Mimmo’s wife, just for the two of us, and enjoyed with wonderful conversation under a walnut tree in view of my beloved castle in Avella.
Family, food and fun times-there is nothing better!
5. Anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to offer many thanks to NOIAW for its important work in keeping our Italian heritage in the forefront of our lives, and for giving me the opportunity to share my creative efforts with its members.
Apart from spending time with my family and friends, poetry, writing and photography are what make me happiest. I hope to continue to create works that will also give pleasure to others.