Tarantella to Thunder Bay

November 2022

“I want to tell you the greatest story I know. It begins with my Nonna and this old, blue suitcase.”

So starts the delightful story of a young girl as she recounts the story of another young girl, the aforementioned ‘Nonna’, as she embarks on the long journey from Italy to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. The story is made even more delightful by the fact that it’s true, and written by Thunder Bay woman, Leah Nadin.

“I’ve always been fascinated by literature and storytelling,” says Nadin. “And while writing a children’s book was never originally a goal of mine, it truly has been a dream come true!”

Nadin admits that she’s always wanted to share the incredible stories of her Nonni (grandparents) and soon realized that there was no better way to do that than by teaching children the importance of cultural heritage and learning about where they come from.

“I’m here because of the sacrifices my grandparents made,” says Nadin. “Like many immigrants, moving to Canada with no family and little money was a big risk. They were willing to take it to pave the way to a brighter future for their family. Even though they were adapting to Canadian culture, they always ensured my brother, cousins, and I kept our Italian heritage and traditions alive.”

One of those traditions is dance. Nadin is the current president of Le Stelle Alpine Italian Dancers, which is 1 of 4 traditional Italian Folk Dancing groups in Canada, so naturally, the traditional Italian Tarantella serves as a thread to weave the story together.

“Growing up, Italian culture was always at the forefront of everything my parents and my Nonni (grandparents) taught me,” says Nadin. “There are many stereotypical ideas that go along with having an Italian identity, but it has always been my aim to explore beyond and really understand what makes Italian culture so beautiful.”

In many ways, it’s a love letter to Thunder Bay, fondly mentioning many historic landmarks in the city as an integral part of her Nonni’s experience. Even Nadin’s publishing journey is full of Thunder Bay milestones.

“Originally, I completed Tarantella to Thunder Bay as part of my English Masters’ degree program at Lakehead University,” says Nadin. “After completing the project, I was contacted by the Institute of Italian Studies almost immediately with an offer to publish my book, which was an absolute dream come true! And Caterina Tolone is a local artist and the business owner of Tolone Art. She is my husband’s cousin but has always felt like a sister to me. When I set out to publish the book, I didn’t think twice about asking Caterina to come on board as the illustrator.”

While Tarantella to Thunder Bay focuses on Italian heritage, Nadin intended it to reflect the immigrant experience of many people.

“It is so important that we share the stories of our immigrant kin,” she says. “Tarantella to Thunder Bay is a story that highlights the importance of preserving culture, and to teach future generations to be proud of their cultural heritage. By writing this book, it was my hope to teach children about my cultural heritage, but also to guide them to ask questions about where they come from.” We think Nonna would agree.

Tarantella to Thunder Bay is available at Indigo, Toy Sense, and Squitti’s, and online through Toy Sense or www.tarantellathunderbay.com.

Heather L. Dickson is a photoshop guru, zoologist and author of 6 novels.

Visit her website at www.hleightondickson.com

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