By Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Gilda, Promise Me starts when she is 16 and meets the Pope… At his request, she makes a promise to learn Italian and never to forget her roots. All throughout the book, you can see how that promise keeps her going in the right direction. Gilda’s memoir is the story of a woman who thinks: “Why educate a woman and deny her full self-expression?”
Keeping that in mind, let’s examine a few of her achievements: she became an interpreter and from that a journalist, then a model, an actress of many movies, and all this in a foreign country speaking a foreign language.
She then chose to teach so as not to disappoint her parents who may have objected to a career in the movie world. Was she just a teacher? No, she went on to teach on TV, having an enormous success. But did she stop there? Certainly not. She traveled all over the world, learned other languages, brought help to Haiti, was in charge of desegregation in the schools of this area of New Jersey, became an Honorary Consul for the Italian government and then received the knighthood from Italy.
Did she ever stop? You know the answer: no. She is still active in her volunteering efforts and this year she received, along with her daughter Mary Rorro, New Jersey Governor’s Jefferson Award, considered the highest honor in America for service and volunteerism.
But this memoir is not just an account of her achievements; it’s the story of her roots, two Italian American families, their dreams, their accomplishments, and their shared love for each other.
It’s the story of her own family, her unbounded love for her first husband and the tragedy of his untimely loss, her wonderful relationship with her children, the house they built.
It’s the story of a woman who felt the bitterness of discrimination, both as a woman and as an Italian American, but who did not let that stop her.
It’s a story of a woman who tried to rebuild a life with a second husband just to be stricken down with another tragedy.
It’s a real memoir, a story of a successful woman who loved, dedicated herself to her family and even so achieved so much.
It’s an intriguing book that it’s a significant cultural contribution both to the Italian American studies and to the women studies.
In a few words, a book that needs to be read, and we are certain that the readers will agree with us, after reading the book, that Gilda’s promise to the Pope was kept.