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The story behind the book

Castellani’s families have been fact, fiction, and fulfillment

David Wilson for The Boston Globe

In Christopher Castellani’s “All This Talk of Love,” Italian immigrant parents raise American offspring, mirroring the author’s own life. Although the novel, Castellani’s third, isn’t drawn entirely from personal experience, he offered that “certain dynamics in the book are resonant to my family,” including the complex idea of home. “There are these parents who are always longing to go home,” he said of the fictional Grasso family, “and for them home is a completely different place from where their children grew up and what they understand home to be.’’

While the Grassos find their trip back to the ancestral village a difficult one, for Castellani the reality was different. “My family did go back fairly often,” he said, to “this kind of magical village where my parents grew up.” At the same time, he added, as a child “I didn’t fully understand how it shaped my life or my parents’ lives.” Working that out has been an ongoing project in Castellani’s fiction; all three novels focus on the Grassos.

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Castellani’s other love, it seems clear, is his literary family. Now artistic director of Grub Street, the Boston creative-writing nonprofit, Castellani has helped founder Eve Bridburg shape the organization for the past 13 years, serving in “pretty much every role” along the way.

Grub Street, which offers workshops in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, and creative nonfiction, has “really come into its own in the past two years,” Castellani said, citing the Novel Incubator program, in which writers with a complete first draft work with an instructor to study the craft of the novel and revise their manuscripts. Only a few years old, the program has already yielded success, with graduates landing agents and book deals.

In an interview last year with online literary magazine “The Rumpus,’’ Castellani told Steve Almond that the two roles complement each other: “My work with the organization has been less of a distraction than an inspiration, connecting me with an incredible community of talented writers and devoted readers. . . . I consider myself one of the luckiest writers in the world, and this is mainly because of Grub Street.”

Castellani reads Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the South End Library, 685 Tremont St., Boston.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.
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