Woman Wednesday: JoAnn


Q and A with JoAnn
from Sicily, Italy, living in Georgian Bay, Canada

“A theme that I include in my novel is that of the immigrant experience, the struggle, and prejudice experienced by many hardworking new immigrants.”


Q: What are you passionate about? 

A: I had never held a book in my hands until my family immigrated to Canada from Sicily in 1957. There were no libraries in our small Sicilian village in the 50s, and my family could not afford books. I was seven, so I was placed into first grade, and by the end of the year, I could speak and read some English. In grade three, my class was allowed to walk to a nearby library where we were allowed to borrow three books. The books suggested by the librarian were very thin children’s books. I would take three home, read them the same night, then wait patiently for two weeks to go by so I could go back to the library and bring home three more. That’s when I developed my passion for reading, which also inspired me to write. My other interests are baking and gardening, both of which require reading, whether you want to bake some really delicious scones or learn how to grow beautiful flowers. I have been a freelance journalist for many years, but I only recently published my first novel, A Scarcity of Virgins. It is a women’s novel with a feminist bent, that incorporates the immigrant experience as a backdrop since it is so much a part of me. I have almost completed a second novel, Island of the Vespers, a historical romance that takes place in Sicily during the 1860 unifications wars led by Giuseppe Garibaldi.


Q: What were your younger years like?

A: In elementary school, my favorite subject was composition, and I remember my grade-four teacher being so impressed by a story I had written, that he passed it around among the other teachers, much to my embarrassment. It was a silly story about a bear that attacked a hunter, but instead of eating the hunter, the bear preferred the hunter’s honey sandwiches. For some reason, my teacher thought it was hilarious. I thought, if my grade-four teacher liked my writing, maybe writing was something I should do. So, I always wrote stories at home for my own pleasure and had a diary going, even into my late teens. My parents didn’t speak English, so on parents’ night when kids were supposed to stay home, I had to accompany my parents to the school to translate. Because of that, and because of all the children of Italian immigrants that were enrolling in our school, I became the school’s official translator assisting teachers who wanted to communicate with the parents. My decision to study modern languages in university stems from this experience.


Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?

A: In spite of the women’s liberation movement, which was at its height in the 60s and 70s, many women of my era remained mired in patriarchal and misogynistic traditions. Fifty years later, it continues to exist. I just recently watched a series entitled Maid, based on a true story, a contemporary story, and was saddened to see how women are still treated badly, and how much they have to struggle. Even though my novel, A Scarcity of Virgins, takes place in the 80s, the subject matter, which includes, marriage, family, patriarchy, misogyny, feminism, fidelity and infidelity, is still relevant today. Women cannot allow themselves to be used and abused by men and are often unfairly disqualified from jobs or social assistance. Additionally, a theme that I include in my novel is that of the immigrant experience, the struggle, and prejudice experienced by many hard-working new immigrants.


Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: To me, feminism means the freedom to be ourselves, without fear of reprimand or retaliation, without physical or emotional abuse. It means being able to have control of our own lives, and most importantly, having equal rights and opportunities, without the consideration of gender.

MORE FROM JOANN: I lived my early years in Toronto, Canada, where I studied, married, worked, and raised my three children. After retirement, I moved farther north to enjoy country life on the shores of Georgian Bay. I am so happy that I was able to combine the launch of my first novel, A Scarcity of Virgins, with my mother’s 106th birthday on October 23rd. We had to have two separate cakes, of course!

Book to order: amazon.com/author/jo-annwrites

Website: joanncatania.com

Facebook: JoAnnCatania2

Twitter: JoAnnCatania1

Instagram: joanncatania1


Thank you for reading!

I’d love to connect with you! 🙂

Woman Wednesday: Justine

*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below. 


 

Q and A with Justine, Somerset County, New Jersey

People always ask me how I can afford to travel as much as I do at this age. Something I’d like others to know is that whatever you want to do is possible if you really want to make it happen. I make traveling and seeing the world a priority. This isn’t to say that I spend an extreme amount of money on it either. I budget it into my expenses just like groceries. I need to see the world. And while I love my job, I always feel a constant urge to know that the world and my life is bigger than sitting at a desk or on a train. It’s always worth it, and it is totally possible!”o

 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: I love my job and the field I am in! I am a book publicist so basically, I get to tell people how great certain books are and then organize events and book tours for authors. I have always loved books; this is absolutely my dream! I majored in creative writing and English, did a bunch of internships, got my master’s in English literature, and was hired at the last company I interned at! Now, I’m working at a company that works with a lot of books in translation that ranges in genre from thrillers to biographies and art books. I love being able to work on all different types of books and just talk about how amazing books are all day.

 

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Pictured: Justine in her element. As a book publicist, she loves reading books and helping authors.

 

Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know?

A: Sometimes you can give something everything you have and work your very hardest and fall short. It doesn’t mean that you failed. So much of adult life is about timing, working hard, and luck. At times, you can go every extra mile, outwork people around you, and still not succeed as quickly or as much as you would like. These shortcomings put things into perspective, and when you can look back on them and actually say, “I gave that everything I had,” then you know you did your very best. Just because the outcome may not be exactly in our favor, we have to take these experiences and use them to make us stronger for the next time. In short, life is not always fair, and you can’t let it break you! Learn from it, and don’t give up! 

 

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Pictured: Justine in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. 

 

Q: What were your younger years like?

A: I always liked to keep super busy when I was growing up. I loved shuttling between softball, soccer, basketball, piano, gymnastics, ballet, cross country, track, and any other summer camps or art classes I could weasel my way into. Looking back, I feel so sorry for my parents who had to drive me around everywhere, but I am also so thankful and grateful for them always encouraging me to try everything and practice everything I was doing. I learned about committing to something and following through from a young age, and I also learned how to be part of a team, which is something I think absolutely translates to adult life in work and relationships. Even growing up, I was obsessed with books! I remember being in second grade and spending every free second reading to win more personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut’s Book It program. While pizza initially stimulated my infatuation with reading, I quickly knew that I just loved books! I still very fondly remember my first author event during a first-grade assembly where a children’s book author, Dan Gutman, came to visit us and gave us each a signed copy of his book. I spent all my allowance buying all his books and thought that him coming to visit us was just about the coolest experience ever. Now, I get to go to author events all the time!

 

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Pictured: Justine at the New Jersey Balloon Festival. 

 

A part of my story that I haven’t mentioned yet is my passion for traveling. I love taking vacations to countries that I haven’t been to yet and going on adventures. I do this at least twice a year. People always ask me how I can afford to do this at this age. Something I’d like others to know is that whatever you want to do is possible if you really want to make it happen. I look online on tons of different websites to find the most affordable flights and places to stay. I use my vacation days around small holidays to make the trips longer. I make traveling and seeing the world a priority. This isn’t to say that I spend an extreme amount of money on it either. I budget it into my expenses just like groceries. I need to see the world. And while I love my job, I always feel a constant urge to know that the world and my life is bigger than sitting at a desk or on a train. It’s always worth it, and it is totally possible!

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Pictured: Justine enjoying the water and beautiful views in Italia (Italy). 
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Q: What does feminism mean to you? 

A: To me, feminism means equality. I do not like being talked down to by men, being treated like I can’t do something as well as a man can, nor do I like being treated like I am a man’s property. However, to be honest, I’m not big on movements like the women’s march or large scale protests to assert feminism. I think that by showing the men you associate with that you are just as strong and smart(er) as they are, and asserting this belief into who you are is the best way to change the conversation. I think we need men to uplift women just as much as we need women to uplift women.

 

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Pictured: Justine and her significant other, Nick, traveling together in Iceland. 

 

I really think that the conversation about feminism needs to include men. I feel like there are two types of men: men who repress women and men who uplift women. The men who uplift women are able to do this because they are associated with strong women who are their equals. In my opinion, a great example of this is Barack and Michelle Obama. This may not be a popular opinion, but as much as I am rooting for women and “feminism,” I do think there is a lot of hypocrisy. I think that if a woman claims to be a “feminist,” she shouldn’t depend on her dad or her partner to do things like dealing with her car issues or squashing bugs. Once you get to this point, you can’t ignore other things that have become gender norms like men proposing to women, because we all still want our dream proposal and diamond ring. So, it’s not black and white for sure.

 

As a side note, I also believe that “feminism” is the cop-out men have been waiting for, and in 10 years, I believe “stay at home dads” will be the norm. So it’s a conflicting subject, to say the least, and this is a very loaded question. I could go on and on!


I think that this quote from the book,
“How to be Parisian,” sums up how I feel about feminism: “Of course you can open a bottle of wine by yourself. But let him do it. That’s equality too.”

 

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Pictured: Justine taking a stroll in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

 

 

 

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