The University of Wisconsin Press


Giovanna’s 86 Circles
And Other Stories
Paola Corso

Library of American Fiction

Nominated for a Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award
Best Short Stories of 2005 by Grace Cavalieri in the Montserrat Review
On's Recommended List of Short Stories for Rushed Readers
Finalist, 2006 John Gardner Fiction Book Award, Binghamton University
A Sons of Italy National Book Club Selection

In this mesmerizing fiction debut, Italian American women and girls spin their culture’s lore to enliven a dying steel town. Even a wrecking ball is no match for the legend of Giovanna’s green thumb in the title story. Quirky and profound, Paola Corso’s magical leaps reveal the poetry of these women’s lives.

“Memorable and entrancing. . . . These stories . . . remain powerful in the moment thanks to the imagery’s dream-like density.”
Publishers Weekly

Captivating storytelling in the tradition of Italian fairytale makers.”
Rain Taxi

“Corso knows the secret to surviving in every small fading Western Pennsylvania town: a mix of quiet courage and a wild imagination. Generation to generation, the women of Giovanna’s 86 Circles somehow find the power to redeem the everyday.”
—Stewart O'Nan, author of The Good Wife

The author, Paola Corso, leans against a brick wall, she is wearing a light colored béret.Paola Corso
is the recipient of the 2000 Sherwood Anderson Fiction Prize and was nominated for a Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award. She is a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow and author of a book of poems, Death by Renaissance, published by Bottom Dog Press. A native of the Pittsburgh area, she now lives in Brooklyn and teaches fiction in
New York City.

Paola Corso has her own website with information about this book, and information on the reading discussion guide and writing exercises for this book which are available upon request at

There is a press kit for this title. Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)
Of Related Interest:
A Novel in StoriesCatina’s Haircut
A Novel in Stories
Paola Corso
Corso follows an Italian family through four generations from the Calabrian town of San Procopio to Pittsburgh in this fable-like follow-up to Giovanna’s 86 Circles. . . . The stories, individually, find moments of inspired, ethereal revelation.—Publishers Weekly

cover of Corso's book in a blend of green and gold with an illustration of a basket of flowers featured

May 2007

LC: 2005005437 PS
152 pp.  6 x 9

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Paper $16.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-21284-1
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The Terrace Books logo is designed in the shape of a book with a Union chair in silhouette on the cover. The words Terrace Books, Madison, Wisconsin appear also.
A trade imprint of the University of Wisconsin Press

“A major contribution to female Italian American literature. Corso mixes fable and grit to illustrate the beauty, power, and necessity of storytelling.”
—Rita Ciresi, author of Remind Me Again Why I Married You

“Paola Corso conjures a world . . . a humble if pinched society, down on its luck but at least rich in tradition. She honors that fact here, and then some.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

From the description of the cloth edition Corso's Giovanna’s 86 Circles:

These ten magical stories are primarily set in working-class river towns in the Pittsburgh area where Italian American women and girls draw from their culture and folklore to bring life and a sense of wonder to a seemingly barren region of the Rust Belt. Each story catapults the ordinary into something original and unpredictable.

A skeptical journalist scopes out the bar where the town mayor, in seemingly perfect health, is drinking with his buddies and celebrating what he claims is the last day of his life. A woman donates her dead mother’s clothes to a thrift shop but learns that their destiny is not what she expected. A ten-year-old girl wrestles with the facts of life as she watches her neighbor struggle to get pregnant while her teenage sister finds it all too easy. A high school girl hallucinates in a steamy hospital laundry room and discovers she can see her coworkers’ futures. A developer’s wrecking ball is no match for the legend of Giovanna’s green thumb in the title story “Giovanna's 86 Circles.” Quirky and profound, Corso’s magical leaps uncover the everyday poetry of these women’s lives.

Corso mixes myth and reality, fable and grit to illustrate the beauty, power, and necessity of storytelling. A major contribution to female Italian-American literature.”
—Rita Ciresi, author of Mother Rocket and Blue Italian

Giovanna’s 86 Circles is an appealing gathering of short fiction at a time when American culture is changing radically. Corso’s characters are Old World people vulnerable to the assault of contemporary capitalism, but dreaminess relieves the stresses of their lives. Her prose is inviting in its clarity and music as she creates a world that is at once familiar and strange. Corso’s debut collection is at the same level of literary achievement as Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and Junot Diaz’s Drown.”
—David Huddle, author of The Story of a Million Years

Beautifully written, strong female characters, and adolescent themes will attract good readers to this little gem of a book.”
—Pennsylvania School Library Association Young Adult Top Forty List

From the critics:

Giovanna’s 86 Circles is accessible, big-hearted fiction. Corso has, as has been written of Bruce Springsteen, ‘a Catholic imagination.’ Like Springsteen, too, she tends toward the apotheosis of everyday people struggling with faith of some species.”
The City Paper

Corso joins a fine cast of American women authors of imaginative writing.”
MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

Corso’s strong ethnic narratives in Giovanna’s 86 Circles are remniscent of those by Toni Morrison.”
Pittsburgh Magazine

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