Sweet Hope is a novel about two families, one Black and one Italian, living and working together under harsh and unusual conditions on a Mississippi Delta cotton plantation 1901-1906. As part of the “Italian Colony Experiment,” Italians were illegally imported to the south under false pretenses and held in a contract labor system designed to put and keep them in debt while the few remaining African American sharecroppers taught the Italians to work cotton, speak English, and survive.
Initially, knowing nothing of American racial divisions or the history of American slavery, the Italians regard the Black sharecroppers as privileged Americans. The African Americans do not know what to make of the Italians who are driven by one goal: to find a way out of their contracts and escape the hell they’ve found themselves in. A vicious manager/ overseer, an absentee plantation owner, a rape, an interracial “Romeo and Juliet” love affair, a murder, and hints of a federal investigation complicate the characters’ lives.
A Place of Light
Each of these impeccably crafted and sensitive stories is built around the outstanding ordinary individuals, the eccentrics of the rural working class of Mary Bush’s native upstate New York. These are gritty depictions of the day-to-day lives of the hardworking poor, carrying with them their secret burdens. At the cores of these wide-ranging narratives are moments of surprise, illuminations that stun the thoughtful central personalities themselves. “Like Richard Russo, Carolyn Chute, and Robert Olmstead, Mary Bush carves out compassion and richness from a stony and forested world of lives lived in isolation from the urban mainstream. She renders the justifiable rage of those lives, of the women and men trapped in their harshness, but more, finally, their enduring and redeeming ability to forgive” – Douglas Unger.
Growing Up Ethnic in America
Chapter “Drowning,” from the novel Sweet Hope in the anthology Growing Up Ethnic in America, eds. Gillan & Gillan.
The Voices We Carry
Chapter “Planting,” from the novel Sweet Hope in the anthology The Voices We Carry: Recent Italian/ American Women’s Fiction, ed. Mary Jo Bona.
From the Margin, Writings in Italian Americana
Chapter “Drowning,” from the novel Sweet Hope in the anthology From the Margin, Writings in Italian Americana rev. edition, eds. Tamburri, Giordano, & Gardaphé.
The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture
Short Story “Aperitivo” in anthology The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture, The Feminist Press, eds. Giunta & DeSalvo.