Searching for oneself
'Don't you dare call me an ethnic,' I said, furious.
'Well, what the hell are you?' (P.123)
Looking for Alibrandi is a narrative written by Melina Marchetta, which focuses on the life of Josephine Alibrandi, a seventeen-year-old, who is completing her last year of school at St Martha's and is about to start her HSC (Higher School Certificate). As the title suggests, the story delivers a message to the reader that Josephine is trying to find herself. Through the plot, the setting, the style and the issues raised, Marchetta takes us on Josie's journey of self discovery.
Various events happen throughout the novel to Josie. Through the development of the plot, the reader can observe Josie's reactions to family and friends. We watch Josie cope with her final year of school, the racist attitude of Carly Bishop, the suicide of John Barton, and meeting Michael Andretti, her father, who has just realised that Josie exists upon returning to Sydney for work.
The conflict in the relationship between Josie and her Nonna, Katia Alibrandi, is another challenge for Josie. The plot helps to construct the character of Josie by showing how she deals with situations, and how she slowly comes to an acceptance of herself and her Italian heritage.
Young Australian readers will find the setting of the novel very realistic and familiar. They will identify with the portrayal of Australian high school life, attending a debating meeting, the description of suburban Sydney and catching the ferry to Circular Quay, the fact of being part of a dysfunctional family - all these details of the setting are realistic and will be instantly recognisable. Many teenagers of foreign parentage will relate to Josie's rebellion against her Italian side and to all the references to the Italian culture.