Debra uses her Italian connection to help book

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A WRITER and businesswoman who grew up in Morpeth has used her international links to champion a book about her second home.

Debra Santangelo is a director of Sicilian Connections, which serves as a forum for gathering the hundreds of Italian communities and Italophiles worldwide and focuses on Sicily to the south of the country.

She is playing her part in trying to get a historical novel, called Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily, published. It questions many accounts of the island’s involvement in the Risorgimento – the War of Italian Unification.

Written by Anthony Di Renzo, the book tells the story of the tragic relationship between Donna Zita and Benjamin Ingham, the British merchant who comes to Sicily during the Napoleonic Wars and corners its fledgling Marsala industry.

Their failed romance represents Sicily’s lost opportunities under British colonisation and its subsequent betrayal during the Italian Revolution.

After being rejected by US publishers he found support from Guernica Editions, an independent press based in Toronto, but Guernica’s Government funding does not extend to non-Canadian authors so Trinàcria would need a sponsor.

Mr Di Renzo then sought the help of Mrs Santangelo and she recommended he contact Roberto Ragone, a USA-based arts and business consultant. Together, they then found the main sponsor, The Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere in New York.

As well as donating her own money, the travel journalist, cultural guide and networker has discounted two items from her jewellery line to those who contribute £190 to the book’s campaign – the black Etna Collection and the turquoise Giardini Naxos.

Those unable to contribute £190 directly can buy the jewellery at full price and she will contribute £15 in the buyer’s name towards Trinàcria.

Mrs Santangelo said: “I have met many people of Sicilian origin who, for various reasons, have emigrated and live in different locations worldwide, but the passion they feel for their homeland has remained strong.

“It was my aim to create a community where Sicilians could come together and share their wonderful stories of the island and memories of their ancestors.

“I wanted to tangibly express my support for the Trinàcria project because of the book’s cultural significance and potential impact. It deserves a very wide audience.

“I’m continuing a 200-year-old cultural exchange programme between England and Sicily, whose origins are discussed in Anthony’s book.”

For more information, visit www.sicilianconnections.com