Titles 1998-2018

Malafemmena, Louisa Ermelino


Louisa Ermelino's stories follow women living dangerously at home and abroad, whether in Italian-American neighborhoods or in the countries—India, Turkey, Afghanistan—where they seek escape. At home, they break ancient Italian taboos and fall victim to mobsters. Overseas, they smoke opium-laced hashish and sleep with strange men. Ermelino's voice is boisterous and endearingly blunt. 

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Additional Info

Louisa Ermelino is the author of three novels: Joey Dee Gets Wise, The Black Madonna, and The Sisters Mallone. She is currently the Reviews Director at Publishers Weekly in New York City.


"A collection of arresting short stories that call to mind the work of Lucia Berlin in their sparse realism and humor, as well as their fine attention to the often-harsh details of women’s lives. . . . Birth and death, love and friendship, drugs and violence, home and abroad: the stories’ themes are elemental and affecting, lingering in the mind like parables or myths sketching something vital, sad, and true." 
Publishers Weekly starred review

"Capturing an era, the specific locale, and the ethnic force of these people, Ermelino provides a glimpse into another time and place with a touch of magical realism. . . . "
School Library Journal

“Edgy short stories about women in trouble abroad and at home. . . The characters in Ermelino’s 16 quick stories get around. They crack jokes, take opium, have ill-considered assignations, and are lucky to get out alive (some don’t). There are a lot of great lines and a few truly timeless questions.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Admit it, you’ve always fantasized about being tough and adventurous, about crossing swords with the Mafia or sleeping with strangers and smoking opium-laced hashish. . . . Ermelino takes you there with strong-willed female characters circling through New York’s Italian American neighborhoods and far-off India and Afghanistan.”
Library Journal

“Many of Ermelino's short tales hinge on recollections that evolve into deeper connections and realities. . . . Spanning perception, continents, and time, Ermelino's 16 tales stealthily explore her characters' unwieldy predicaments and conflicting desires.”

“Borrowing its title from an Italian song (loose translation: “Evil Woman”), this striking collection features women struggling with love, childbirth, betrayal, violence, dislocation.”
People Magazine, "People Picks: The Best New Books"

“An accolade from acclaimed journalist and novelist Gay Talese goes a long way, and Louisa Ermelino’s collection of short stories, which center around women living life in the proverbial fast lane at home and abroad, is worthy of the endorsement, and will leave you feeling inspired by their energy and lust for adventure.”
InStyle online, “7 Page-Turning Books You Should Read in August 2016”

“Though Louisa Ermelino’s collection of short stories, Malafemmena, is short--16 stories amount to fewer than 160 pages--it is epic in its scope, spanning continents and cultures, time and space to bring to life a series of nuanced and fascinating female characters.”
Shelf Awareness

"Sharp and brisk."
—The Book Reporter

“Louisa Ermelino’s impressive short story collection Malafemmena is filled with fascinating stories of women facing dilemmas.”
Largehearted Boy

“You’re in good hands with Louisa Ermelino….Most delightedly, several dark-shaded tales are not plainspoken as much as they are very natural, akin to episodes out of Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron.” But those mini fables can take place on Staten Island or Greenwich Village, and their twists help to impart flavors that are simultaneously very specific, but also universal.”
LEO Weekly

“There is lyricism in the language of Ms. Ermelino’s splendid collection that lulls us, line after seductive line, from the mundane to the menacing. Malafemmena is the work of a bold and original writer.”
—Gary Talese

“Written with generosity, curiosity, and a great deal of sharp wit. . . . Will speak to anyone who’s found themselves gloriously stranded in a foreign land. . . . or bemused by the strange rituals of their own tribe.”
—Hanya Yanagihara

“What Louisa Ermelino knows about the heart could fill a book and has. The unadorned authenticity of her prose is so powerful, it gave me whiplash. I read Malafemmena in one sitting and wanted more, more, more. The writer’s a genius, or an alchemist, or maybe both.”
—Patricia Volk, author of Stuffed and Shocked

“Louisa Ermelino is a gorgeous writer and master storyteller. Imagine a cross between Maugham and The Sopranos. She captures the madness, comedy, violence, and superstition of domestic life in NYC’s Little Italy, but also takes us all over the world—Jakarta, India, Turkey—where her characters stumble in and out of heartbreak and trouble. This book is irresistible. I loved it.”
—Delia Ephron