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Joe's Fruit Shop & Milk Bar

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A captivating true story that will speak to generations of Australians, from the author of Mezza Italiana.

'Nonno Anni gives me a nudge. "You know, when I first came to Australia, I knew that my life would change forever."'
Leaving the small village of Fossa in Italy in 1939 to meet a father he barely remembered in a place that was far from everything he knew, fifteen-year-old Annibale Boccabella arrived in Australia determined to make a go of it. It was a time when everything was changing and anything seemed possible. Life was tough but you could still chase your dreams.

More than 70 years later, in 2011, Zoe Boccabella and her family hurriedly try to save the treasured belongings of Annibale and his wife Francesca-Zoe's grandparents-from the rising waters of the Brisbane River. When Zoe sees the sign from their old fruit shop and milk bar about to disappear beneath the floodwater, this triggers in her a realisation that while she has long looked to Italy to discover her migrant heritage, much of it happened here in Australia.

In Joe's Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, Zoe artfully weaves her own experiences with those of her grandparents, taking us on a journey from Abruzzo and Calabria in Italy to Australian sugar cane fields, internment camps, Greek cafes, and the fruit shop and milk bar that was the focus of a family's hopes and dreams for the future.

With memorable, beautifully portrayed characters, evocative writing and a sweeping tale that reflects the experience of so many Australians, this is a story that will touch your heart and remind you of the important things in life.

Praise for Zoe Boccabella's Mezza Italiana
'A charming and thoughtful writer' Frances Mayes
'There is much to love about this book. The wonderful characters, her fabulous Italian grandfather who takes his love for all Italian traditions to Brisbane ... her boyfriend who becomes the poster boy for all things Italian, and the people of Fossa, a village tucked away in the mountains of Abruzzo... I can highly recommend Mezza Italiana on a cold day when you are dreaming of Italy... ' Carla Coulson
'This is one of those books that come along every so often that resonates with so many. Whether you have a migrant background or just love reading about Italy, this is a book with heart and soul, humour and sincerity. A wonderful read.' Cate, ABC Shops website

430 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 1, 2015

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About the author

Zoe Boccabella

3 books21 followers
Zoë Boccabella is an Australian author of both non-fiction and fiction. Her books have been much acclaimed, selected for literary and popular awards and sold internationally. Zoë’s migrant ancestry and handed-down recipes influence her writing, along with subtropical Brisbane, where she was born and lives, as well as travels in Europe and Australia. With a degree in literature, communications and sociology and a Master of Philosophy, she’s worked as a researcher, writer and media advisor for several levels of government, the police service, universities and freelance. Zoë also loves to cook, especially dishes from generations of women and men in her family and their varied cultural pasts, ingredients and spoken stories shared over the kitchen table.
- All books available in paperback, ebook and audiobook. -
Facebook @zoeboccabella.author
Instagram @zoeboccabella

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5 stars
66 (45%)
4 stars
55 (37%)
3 stars
20 (13%)
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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
Profile Image for Sue Gerhardt Griffiths.
787 reviews40 followers
August 8, 2021
Despite the fact that this tale had me sobbing a few times throughout the listening of Joe’s Fruit Shop & Milk Bar it was an extremely beautiful and heartwarming read.

Set in Brisbane, Australia.

Zoe Boccabella the author of this book delivers a stunning account of her Italian family’s history. And boy what an eye-opener. I had no idea that immigrants were treated so badly, well, some idea, as my family and I went through some shit being German but wow, what they endured was even more awful.

Educational and moving and a book that should be read by all.

I loved this story and I could listen to the reader, Daniela Farinacci, all day, her narration was lovely and her Italian accent spot on.
Profile Image for Susan C.
208 reviews
January 22, 2021
I had previously read Joe's Fruit Shop Milk Bar but have since 're-read' this for a summer reading challenge. You see, one of the challenges was to listen to an audiobook. I don't mind audiobooks but I can read with my eyes faster than my ears can listen to a book. To choose a book I went to my 'want to read' list and found Mezza Italiana by the same author. Great, I thought, Joes Fruit Shop is a slim-ish volume it won't take much time at all. Unfortunately, Mezza Italiana wasn't available in my library's Borrow Box but Joe's Fruit Shop Milk Bar was. Ok, I'll re-read this one while I wait for the other one to become available. It won't take me long. I was wrong.

Just like sitting down to read, listening to an audiobook takes a certain commitment. While I was 'plugged in' while I did housework, put up the Christmas Tree, took down the tree, drove from place to place. It actually took me several weeks to finish. But it was worth it.

Listening to the narrator added to the experience, she added to the depth of emotion in many scenes. There were times when Zoe spoke with longing of her grandmother made miss my own. Reading this slowly added atmosphere to the settings. Particularly in the Brisbane scenes, my minds eye travelled over roads and areas mentioned in the book comparing what was then and what is now. I was also appreciative of the narrator's ability to pronounce many of the italian words and names correctly. I am an Australian english speaker from almost birth, the ability to enunciate a sound develops when a child's ability to speak develops. Yes as an adult the ability can be picked up but its not easy. As I listened to the narrator pronounce those words with ease, I wondered throughout if she was a native Italian speaker.

It was not a waste of time to 're-read' this and I am glad I 're-read' in this format.
Profile Image for MelbourneSharonB.
74 reviews4 followers
June 9, 2019
Really enjoyed the story of life in Italy pre WWII, then the migration to Australia, the contrasts of Joe and his father. I learnt a lot about the internment situations during the war. I did struggle a bit with the way the story jumped about era's. Also I 'read' the audio book, so the Italian names were difficult to remember, probably would have been better actually read the book. Daniela Farinacci reads well.
Profile Image for Patrice.
86 reviews
November 23, 2017
A fascinating and entertaining read about an Italian family who made their mark in Brisbane. Zoe Boccabella is 'Joe's' granddaughter and she tells his story, which is the story of so many migrants seeking a better life in Australia, with much honesty and love. I guess you would call this a work of creative non-fiction. It is written from both the author's point of view using her own memories of her Italian relatives and from the migrants' points of view. I loved reading about local landmarks and how Brisbane has changed so much since Joe built his business in the CBD and brought up his family in Teneriffe. And there are many eye-opening moments about how tough life was for the Italians working on Queensland farms and the cane fields during the second world war.
Profile Image for Felicity.
428 reviews16 followers
October 24, 2020
Really enjoyed this. Well written, interesting and I wanted to hear more. Thankfully there is more - a followup book! To think that Joe, arrived with nothing but a half empty suit case and no English! I wish I could have been so successful. Wonderful to think that he made such a place for himself and his family here in Australia...well done Joe.
Profile Image for Anna Davidson.
1,430 reviews13 followers
August 3, 2018
A slow, meandering story of an Italian migrant family. Reading this tale taught me a lot about the migrant experience in the 30s and 40s, as well as making me think about my grandfather’s experience as a Hungarian migrant in the early 1950s.
28 reviews
November 3, 2018
As a Brisbanite and QLDr, this book brought back lots of memories. Enjoyed the back half more than the start but worth reading. Only point of caution, a family history story isn't a page turner if you're not part of the family
Profile Image for Bronwyn Rykiert.
1,146 reviews37 followers
July 4, 2018
This is the best story I have read in recent times. I loved that it was set in Brisbane for most of it and it was interesting finding out about the Italians and how they were treated during the war.
Profile Image for Helen Gilbert.
13 reviews
January 12, 2021
A very interesting true story of an immigrant family and their subsequent family and work life
33 reviews
July 10, 2022
Very good read for those interested in the history of Brisbane from the perspective of Italian immigrants. I loved it.
Profile Image for Kerry Cashman.
127 reviews2 followers
August 10, 2022
This was so well researched that it made me wish I had the foresight to ask all those questions of my family when they were alive. Reading this brought back so many memories of my childhood, being Italian also and my family knowing the owners of the Italian fruit and veg store and the milk bar down the road. Beautifully told with so much love and history throughout the generations.
Profile Image for Susan C.
208 reviews
January 23, 2016
Loved it! A really great story of the journey of an Italian immigrant, actually two because it not only follows Annibale or 'Joe's' story it also follows Francesca, both the author's grandparents. As a history buff it was great reading of all of those locations in Brisbane where the story happened. Knowing these places now, I got a real flavour of parts of Brisbane in the 40s, 50s and beyond which are no longer there. The author's descriptions of the treatment of the Italian migrants both before and during WW11 made me angry, not at the book but at the scenario itself and makes me question whether we are making the same mistakes today.

I think the author has done a marvelous job of weaving the story of her grandparents in the past, along with her experiences with her grandparents and their memory in the present. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.
Profile Image for Debbie Terranova.
Author 6 books16 followers
January 17, 2016
A thoroughly enjoyable memoir, written in honour of the author's grandfather (Annibale Boccabella, also known as Joe) who migrated from Italy to Australia in 1939 at the age of 15. At the time, integration into this country was not easy, due to the onset of war and severe restrictions imposed on 'enemy aliens' by the Australian government. The book covers not only the life and times of Annibale and his family, but also the war and post-war eras in Brisbane and the Granite Belt to the west. In every part of the book, the author's extensive research is in evidence. Yet she has successfully incorporated her findings into a story, showing rather than telling. Only on one or two brief occasions does the narrative become slightly contrived or slip into self indulgence. Highly recommended for anyone with a migrant background and an interest in wartime Australia.
43 reviews2 followers
July 14, 2015
The sotry flows through different countries, landscapes and decades in history. One can easily identify with the main character Joe (Annabile) as his experiences as a migrant, eventually helping out others. I'm glad he was eventually embraced by a more modern Australia eventually, despite the hardships of earlier detention and racism.
Profile Image for Marisa Parker.
Author 2 books5 followers
January 23, 2019
A truly engaging read. With my Italian family background, I thought the characters were portrayed so personably and I empathised with the traditional culture and challenges that would have been faced. It was also a really interesting read about Queensland's history and response to migrants in the latter half of the 20th century. What an incredible family!
88 reviews1 follower
September 12, 2015
Great story of the struggle and hard work of immigrants to build a life for themselves from nothing. I can't imagine spending so many hours working with no real time for family let alone holidays. But it was what they needed to do to give opportunity to future generations.
Profile Image for Emmicella.
78 reviews
April 9, 2021
A wonderful recount of a family’s migrant experience. My connection, Mum born in Fossa and immigrated to Australia following WW2, made this an emotional read.
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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