Delicate and beautifully written, Songs of the Suitcase is seven stories that connect through the rites of passage that mark birth, love and death. the stories explore the strength of blood ties in families and in music and the devastation of loss. Poetically sensitive and poignant. Anna Maria Dell o was born in Melbourne of Italian immigrant parents. She is a respected journalist and a feature writer, columnist and film critic. She writes for literary papers and newspapers including the Good Weekend and has also written poetry, opera libretti, a play, film scripts and shorts, and a regular column in a womens agazine.
Anna Maria Dell'oso was born in Melbourne into a family of Italian storytellers from the mountain villages of the Abruzzo region of Italy. Located inland from the Adriatic coast and over the Appenines from Rome, the Abbruzzo is still mostly unknown to international tourism but is notable to Italians for its national park, where wild bears still roam. The Abruzzese winters are long and harsh, giving rise to witches, ravers, holy people and those professional liars known as storytellers. Dell'oso's mother, Lidia Valerio, has published poetry, her late uncle, Giovanni Valerio, wrote short stories. Another uncle, Vincenzo Valerio, a professional apiarist, has devised and published a method of curing bees of specific diseases.
From the age of five, Anna Maria determined also to be a writer or storyteller of some kind. At 14, she was first published in the national anthology, Youth Writes, where her work was described by The Age as "quite stunning . her writing fairly sparkles . she'll be worth watching ."
Dell'oso began studying the violin at the age of 12 and at 16 she toured Europe and the UK with the Melbourne Youth Orchestra. Words and music competed as vocations for Dell'oso, so in typical Gemini fashion, she worked at both for a time. After tertiary studies in music and the humanities, Dell'oso lived for several years in New Zealand, where she worked as a cadet journalist by day and as a violinist in the local symphony orchestra at night.
In 1978, she returned to Australia where her writing on film and her column in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend magazine became well known. Concentrating on writing, she ceased to practice as a violinist but married one instead: childhood fellow student, David Saffir, who was for a time the leader of the New England String Quartet. Believing drama to be the most technically exacting of the writing disciplines and the most useful for a storyteller, Dell'oso studied playwrighting at NIDA with Paul Thompson and scriptwriting at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. An early play, Tinsel and Ashes, continues to be performed by small theatre companies all over Australia and featured last year as part of Carnivale's The Promised Land, directed by Katerina Ivak and starring Gosia Dobrowolska, Eva Sitta and Zuzana Fort.
In 1988, Dell'oso published a collection of columns and essays called Cats, Cradles and Chamomile Tea. Dell'oso has also written several opera libretti for the Australian composer Gillian Whitehead, including Bride of Fortune (Perth Festival 1991) which won Dell'oso a Pater Award. Bride of Fortune is set in the 1950s and tells the story of Grazia, a young Italian immigrant to Melbourne who makes an ill-fated arranged marriage. The opera was described by The Australian as "lucid, intelligent . a vivid and often moving exploration of a specific migrant experience ."
Dell'oso and Whitehead's latest operatic collaboration is My First Million, a black comedy set in a shopping centre and exploring franchising and friendship, international fast food chains and family business, the money market and world mass migration. It features a bank of singing ATMs and a trio of contract cleaning ladies who clean up on the money market by studying the waste bins of the corporate banks that hire them.
Dell'oso now writes fiction full-time. She lives in the inner west of Sydney with her husband, their two school-aged daughters and a baby son.
She is working on a novel, Beating Time, a tale of theft, fraud and midlife crisis among a group of musicians and instrument makers.