My mother Giuditta (Judy) Chiarle and my father Giuseppe (Joe) Calvetti, were born in Balangero, near Turin, Italy. The life their families left behind is portrayed in a neglected film classic
I Campagni (English title, The Organizer, 1962), whose interior factory scenes were filmed in the actual textile mill where my grandparents worked.
Emigrating (first the men, followed by wives and children) from 1901 to 1910, the Chiarle and Calvetti families made their way separately across the US, working in mines in Butte, Montana and Bingham, Utah, then moving on to work in orchards and canneries in California’s Santa Clara Valley. My parents met as adults in
San Francisco and married in 1925. They settled in the Mission District, then an industrial/residential area of European immigrants, with a sprinkling of the Latinos who later became the majority. I was born there in 1930, the second of their two daughters.
My mother had been the first and only one in her family or my father’s family, or anyone they knew, to complete high school.
I became the first college graduate (BA in music, Teaching Credential: SF State College), marrying my high school boyfriend midway through. When I began teaching high school in 1953,
I already had a son and a daughter.
In the early 1960s, my first marriage ended, I completed an MA in English/Creative Writing, and I began teaching in a community college near Berkeley.
By 1968 I had published reviews and stories in small press publications, had married Robert Bryant, and had found an
agent willing to represent my first novel. It was published in
1972. In 1976, I left teaching in order to write full time.