Tina De Rosa’s Ethnic Archive: Displacement, Disability, and the Writer’s Life

Mary Jo Bona, Stony Brook University
Vol. 40, No. 1 (Fall 2021), 273-306

This article examines the recently established archive of Tina De Rosa,
whose literary achievement in Paper Fish (1980) made possible the deposition of her papers in 2010 at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The De Rosa papers invite a reconsideration of this author’s major work, especially in light of the extant versions of her second novel, Blakey’s Dance, which the author had finished but could neither release nor revise to her satisfaction and remained unpublished. The essay argues that the De Rosa archive of materials, including prayer journals, notes, and sketchbooks, illuminate a trauma that emotionally affected the writer’s entire life and was partly a result of the urban renewal project that destroyed her Italian American neighborhood but was also about the larger transgressions of the Catholic Church as revealed by the archive. By offering a multifaceted approach to reading De Rosa’s archive, the article uncovers overlapping narratives about provenance, poverty, faith, and disability, arguing that this archive supplements her work on the relationship between the trauma of urban renewal and the disabled body. Archival transcripts reveal the author’s struggle to repress harrowing experiences of displacement, precarity, and mental and spiritual struggle. What survives in the Tina De Rosa Papers is a compelling response to a destruction of a marginalized community, a disabled sister, and a deeply ambivalent critique of the Catholic Church.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]