I've written a novella entitled
The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia). The
book is issued by
Legas, which publishes the journal
(Sicilian Dawn) and other Sicilian-oriented literature.
In recent years I have written genealogy columns for several venues.
I give genealogy lectures, most recently at the
Centro Culturale Italiano di Buffalo (CCIB), and I do genealogical research
for Americans of Sicilian descent.
The book is historical fiction, inspired by my
experiences in Sicilian genealogical research. It
tells the story of foundlings and sulfur mine workers and
life in their community of Racalmuto during the late 1800s in Sicily. Interspersed in the tale
are episodes derived from the real-life experiences of my
family, which originated in a small Sicilian town.
I tried to weave into the story some of
the customs and social conditions that went into the
formation of the Sicilian culture and character.
In doing so, in an informal way, I wanted to explain the
processes by which births, marriages and deaths were
reported and recorded in Sicily at that time, and how those
records reflect the lives of its citizens.
Sicily was a poor and oppressed land that contributed the
majority of Italian immigrants to America during the ‘Great
Migration’ of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries. I believe that American descendants of
immigrants of any nationality will recognize some resonance
with their own families’ experiences when reading this book.
I'm a retired civil engineer and former adjunct
professor at the University of Buffalo, and a frequent
contributor to The Buffalo News’
Everybody’s Column on a variety of
subjects, as well as to the paper's
Letters to the Sports
Editor. I write genealogy columns for
two monthly magazines, Buffalo Spree's 'Forever
Young'; and the Lancaster, PA
50Plus Senior News. I'm also a regular
Niente, the quarterly newsletter of
Buffalo's Italian-American social club of the same name.
My 'author page' is at
pages, ISBN-10: 1-881901-86-6 /
1881901866; ISBN-13: 978-1-881901-86-0 /
9781881901860)may be purchased from
Retail locations include:
Vidler's, 676-694 Main
Street, East Aurora, NY 14052
If you aren't near the retail outlets listed
above, or near me (AFConiglio@aol.com)
in the Buffalo area, you can also
order directly from
To order from the publisher, send a check for $12 for each book ordered, plus $3
shipping ($0.50 shipping for each additional book), to Legas, PO Box 149, Mineola,
New York 11501. New York State residents please add
8.65% ($1.04) per book ordered.
Tatangelo, professional genealogist:
managed to include all kinds of
factual information about life in Sicily, and the
hardships the people suffered . . . the ending was
Charles Gelia, descendant of
. . . . a
straight-forward, compact story, as a novelette
should be, artfully written in a non-literary style
so that it read and sounded to me as though it was
being told to me over a Sunday dinner by my father
or my grandfather. Only my grandfather could
have told me about life in Sicily in such truthful
detail, but he never did. Over the years I've
read everything I could get my hands on about life
in Sicily during my grandfather's time there so I
could understand truly why he left. Now I
Very good read. I do my
own Sicilian family research and I know a lot of
research went into this book in regards to life in
Sicily, mining and family traditions, as well as
foundling children. The author uses some
Sicilian vocabulary with English translation for key
words and phrases. Life in Sicily in the
1800's was extremely difficult. This story
portrays that honestly, but it also portrays love of
family and endless hope.
John Puma, an American
expatriate in Sicily:
A lovely book ~ [although]
with . . . gruesome undertones, [it is]
a sweet story. [Previously], I have
been able to understand only part of the story
of the 'carusi'. I did not realize that it
was a situation of virtual slavery. The dialect
lessons were helpful, too.
Victoria Calabrese, PhD
candidate, Italian History: . . . an
interesting glimpse into what life was like [in
Scambray, PhD, in
17 October 2013: . . .
I was reminded of the realistic works of Sicilian
writer Giovanni Verga.
The Lady of the Wheel is a compelling narrative
about the atrocious living conditions that forced so
many Sicilians to migrate to other parts of the
world. It is an important contribution to the
Italian American narrative in the U.S.
HERE to read the full review.)
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 4 of the book:
One day Nino was working in the sulfur mine, at the end
of a tunnel in an area which had been widened into a chamber
that could hold several pickmen and their boys. Nino's son
Totò was working with him. The pickmen, when working
together in this way, would fall into a rhythm, chanting
nonsense syllables, each string ending with an “Ummph!” as
their picks struck the rock in unison.
Totò struggled to keep up with the growing pile of sulfur
ore, but as he was filling his sack, he mistakenly picked up
a rock from the pile belonging to the next miner,
Bruttu". The man’s cruel face, hairy back and bulging
muscles warranted the only name he was known by, “the
Seeing the boy pick up ore that belonged to him, u
Bruttu launched a mighty swing at Totò. Luckily, the lad
was nimble. He jumped to the side so that the huge hand
struck a glancing blow, nevertheless driving him against the
rock face, and inflicting a gash on his shoulder.
Nino sprang between his son and the attacker, shouting
“Let him be!”
“Out of the way!” roared u Bruttu, “He’s just a
lousy carusu, I'll teach him a lesson!”
Nino, much smaller than u Bruttu, stood his
ground. The hairy brute took a step towards him and started
to speak, but just as he opened his mouth, Nino took a
mighty swing, from his knees to the point of the Brute’s
jaw. Years of chopping sulfur had given Nino arms of steel,
and the big man’s jaw snapped shut, breaking several teeth,
and he slumped back, unconscious.
The other miners and their carusi stared
open-mouthed, as did Totò. Nino looked at his son’s
shoulder, dismissed the wound as a scratch, and said, “All
right, don't stand there, fill your sack and go! And
don't pick up the wrong ore!” He then turned to the
others and said “See that none of you, miner or carusu,
ever lays a hand on my son.” And with that he raised
his pick and resumed his relentless attack on the vein of