Simon & Schuster 2019
Actor and TEDx speaker Tembi Locke’s memoir, “From Scratch,” is a documentation of a complicated journey of a Black American whose Sicilian husband is disowned by his family who objected to their biracial marriage. Locke’s narrative begins with her return to the Sicilian village with her husband’s ashes; she recounts how she met Saro, married and moved to Los Angles, where she worked as an actress and he as a chef.
After years of estrangement from Saro’s family, Locke assumes responsibility for this “Sicilian family melodrama” and devises a reunion plan. The ensuing drama is a backdrop to cultural differences and similarities shared by the couple and their families. It also highlights the determination of the Italian mother’s love for her son that prompts her to forego tradition and alter the course of Saro’s and Locke’s lives. “Ignorance was changeable” but not love, writes Locke.
Subsequently Saro is diagnosed with a rare cancer. During his ten-year struggle with the disease, the couple proceeds with their desire to adopt a child. In powerful passages, Locke vividly describes a mother’s pain in giving up her child, and the happiness she and Saro experience as new parents.
Throughout the book Locke masterfully details her family history in Texas, slavery and her parents’ activism. Then, as she and her six-year-old daughter Zoela arrive in Sicily after his death, she grasps her husband’s love for his home, specifically how food sustains more than just hunger. She recalls her own grandmother serving chicken biscuits and collards, a Southern staple, at the cafe she operated for “colored folks.” In Sicily, she savors olives and artichokes, and prepares traditional tomato sauce and ricotta cheese.
. . .a compelling story with charming vignettes. . .
Locke draws readers into most intimate and painful moments — her deep love for Saro, ten years of care-taking and anger when he dies. She does though overplay her loss, and portrays Saro as a most perfect person. Still, she addresses challenges of racism and responds honestly to her daughter’s questions about why their skin is dark. It’s a compelling story with charming vignettes, from herb harvesting to cooking traditional dishes. And at the end of the book, Locke offers a nice bonus with a bunch of Sicilian recipes.
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