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Sometimes I Dream in Italian Reader’s Guide

By Rita Ciresi

Sometimes I Dream in Italian by Rita Ciresi


The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Rita Ciresi’s SOMETIMES I DREAM IN ITALIAN. We hope they will enrich your experience of this compelling, funny novel-in-stories that is an exploration of childhood, family, and the immigrant experience.


As adults, Angel and Lina Lupo debate what was the worst thing about their childhood. Why couldn’t they have just forgotten about being Italian and been “normal” Americans? As kids, they longed to flee their parents’ heavy accents and dowdy clothes for the glamour of New York and Hollywood. But now that they’ve grown up, they look back on the time they billed themselves the “Two Italian Hits!” wistfully. And as they grapple with their present-day problems, the past looms as close as their everyday concerns, and sometimes seems even more real.
Lyrical and bittersweet, SOMETIMES I DREAM IN ITALIAN is a story of family and love, of the bonds we are born with and those we struggle to create.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Why is Mama so money-conscious? How does this fear of extravagance shape her daughters’ personalities and expectations for the future?

2.Mama and Babbo are distrustful of anything that is too different from their everyday experience, and seem fearful of taking risks. Why is this? What could they have done to make their lives richer?

3.Catholicism has a strong influence on the family as a whole. How does it influence Lina and Angel as adults? How does it affect the choices they make and the lives they now lead?

4.Why does Babbo seem mysterious and remote to Angel and Lina when they are children? What changes that?

5.What was the turning point in Lina’s life? Why is she so unhappy today? What could she do to change that?

6.What is Angel seeking out of life that she doesn’t have? What could she do to change things? Why do you think she stays at a job she doesn’t like?

7.Do you think Mama and Babbo had a happy marriage? Overall, were they happy or unhappy with their life?

8.What kind of lives did they envision for their daughters?

9.Why does Mama remember her trip through Ellis Island differently every time she tells it? What does that say of her feelings about these memories?

10.When Lina realizes that the picture of the young woman in Babbo’s things is their mother, she becomes unhappy. Why? What does the transformation of this young woman into Mama mean to Lina’s vision of her adulthood?

11.Why do Lina and Angel have fantasies of being blond and pale-skinned?

12.What kinds of things could have happened to make Uncle Gigi and Aunt Pat different–and less traditional–than Mama and Babbo?

13.As adults, why do Lina and Angel imitate their parents’ dialogue? Is it only to make fun of them–or does it fill another role?

14.What keeps Dirk and Angel together? What do you think finally prods Angel to break up with him?

15.Why is Dirk so scared by the idea that family affects the way you behave in a relationship? What does this say about his feelings toward Angel’s family?

16.How does the story end? Is it on a hopeful note? Do you think Angel and Lina will be able to find the happiness they are searching for?

Don’t miss the previous two hilarious–and poignant–novels from Rita Ciresi:

Blue Italian

Rosa comes from a working-class Italian family. Gary grew up with swimming pools and overdone bar mitzvahs. So begins the funny, heartrending romance between two people who don’t quite add up to the ideal couple.

What makes Gary want to believe in God–even though it’s hard for him? Why does Rosa believe in God without really trying?

Although Rosa and Gary are rarely romantic in the traditional sense, there’s a lot of love in their relationship. Why is humor their main form of communication?

Why do you think Gary decided to die in the hospital instead of at home?

Pink Slip

Lisa Diodetto’s mother wants her to get married so badly that anything in pants will do. But when she falls for her boss, the ensuing affair makes Lisa wonder if this crazy, confusing thing called love is really worth it.

Why does Strauss retreat into boardroom speech when talking to Lisa about their relationship?

Lisa is usually a very direct person. Why isn’t she able to tell Strauss that she stumbled upon his piece about his father in the story collection she picked up?

What was the main reason for the disintegration of Lisa and Strauss’s relationship?

About this Author

RITA CIRESI is the author of Mother Rocket, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the novels Pink Slip and Blue Italian. She lives with her husband and daughter in Florida.

Praise for RITA CIRESI’S heartwarming novels


“Reading this book is like simultaneously attending a wacky Italian family reunion and a sleep-over for grown-up women with great memories to share. What fun! And what pleasure!”


“A funny and poignant novel that charts the hazardous waters of work and love and where, for better and worse, the two converge. Ms. Ciresi’s wonderful prose and generous heart works together pitch perfectly here to render what we all hope for: a good love story.”BRETT LOTT, author of Jewel

“It’s refreshing to find a female narrator with an authentically lusty voice–someone who swears, talks back to tiresome relatives and doesn’t shy away from her own sexuality. It’s even more refreshing to find a heroine who can make a mean eggplant Parmesan yet disdains the humble domestic goals her old-world mother has set for her. Rita Ciresi has created just such a heroine in Pink Slip.”The New York Times Book Review

“A very romantic comedy light, yet complex. Even in the laugh out loud sections it has real gravity. It’s an amazing performance, start to finish.”STEWART O’NAN, author of A World Away

For more information about SOMETIMES I DREAM IN ITALIAN, and to read an excerpt, visit our website at

While there, drop by our Reading Group Feature to learn about other titles perfect for book clubs.
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