Of Mothers and Sisters: Donatella Di Pietrantonio’s L’Arminuta


  • Claudia Karagoz Saint Louis University



parole chiave:

motherhood, mother-daughter relation, Donatella Di Pietrantonio, inclination, sisterhood


Set in Abruzzo, an Italian region seldom represented in the work of contemporary Italian women writers, Donatella Di Pietrantonio’s L’Arminuta (2017) is a compelling novel recounting the protagonist-narrator’s difficult journey toward self-realization following a double-abandonment by both her biological and adoptive mothers. An empowering bond with her long-lost younger sister Adriana, an extraordinarily resourceful and caring ten-year old, allows the protagonist to survive her new, hostile surroundings after her adoptive mother abruptly returns her to her biological family at age thirteen. Despite having gained popular acclaim and several literary prizes, L’Arminuta has not yet received the critical attention it deserves. To date, no scholarly studies of this work have been produced. This article intends to bring long-overdue attention to this neglected novel. In the first part of the article, after analyzing how language and communication signify the development of the protagonist’s identity and her evolving relationships with her two mothers, I engage with philosopher Adriana Cavarero’s analysis of motherhood in her rereading of the Demeter’s myth. Here, I argue that the failed mother-daughter relationships portrayed in L’Arminuta are the result of patriarchal constructions of motherhood that, albeit in different ways, deprive both mothers of the choice not to reproduce, and preclude the formation of validating bonds with their daughter. In the second part of the article, through the lens of Cavarero’s notion of “inclination,” I show how Adriana’s crucial acts of care toward the protagonist counteract her lack of lasting, loving bonds with her mothers, and allow her to endure her double abandonment. L’Arminuta is a powerful and necessary novel that denaturalizes persisting constructions of motherhood as women’s natural fate, and proposes a non-traditional model of care and nurturing that escapes patriarchal definitions of the family.




2020-09-18 — Aggiornato il 2020-09-18

come citare

Karagoz, C. «Of Mothers and Sisters: Donatella Di Pietrantonio’s L’Arminuta». Altrelettere, settembre 2020, pagg. 50-77, doi:10.5903/al_uzh-47.