Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An English memoir in Sun Valley

Diana Fassino takes a trip down memory lane

Express Staff Writer

Diana Fassino will appear at The Community Library in Ketchum on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 6p.m. Photo by Jane Dettwiler

"I have total recall of absolutely everything from when I was 7," said Diana Fassino about writing her new memoir, "When the Cat Had My Tongue: A Very English Memoir."

Fassino, a native of England who lives in Sun Valley, will read from her new book at the Community Library in Ketchum on Thursday, Dec. 14, at 6 p.m. and will also hold a book signing at Chapter One Bookstore on Sunday, Dec. 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Fassino began her career writing fictional short stories for women's magazines while her children were growing up. She wrote more than 200 short stories, but when the market for fiction began to disappear and reality stories took their place, Fassino stopped writing them.

For years Fassino wanted to publish a book, but her agent always discouraged her.

"My agent said you are not famous, but if you were famous I could get you published," she said.

However, times have changed and so has publishing.

Fassino self-published "When the Cat Had My Tongue" with the assistance of her husband and has discovered a brand new perspective to writing.

"This is so much more fun, and you get more involved with people," she said. "I never thought about any of this before."

"When the Cat Had My Tongue" is a look back at Fassino's proper, upper-class English upbringing during World War II. Fassino was raised by nannies and governesses, in what she describes as the "Big House" in Edwinstowe, England, and she was sent to boarding school in Switzerland.

"It may be romanticizing things, but my parents had a luxurious life. I used to hang out in the maids' living room, which was completely illegal, and it seemed to me it was a very happy community, and people wanted these jobs even though they were paid very badly."

Fassino's father was an important member to the Edwinstowe community because so many people depended on him for employment, and in turn he felt an obligation to them.

"I don't know if this is my own perspective, but my father ran the mine in a little mining village, and you think it would be very divided, but I was always conscious of the community spirits," Fassino said. "I wrote about a period that needed to go away, and America is trying to re-create it."

Fassino's story, although very personal from a child's view at 7, is history. She writes how, "It was against the law in 1948 to send money out of England..." and food was still rationed in England for six years after the war had ended.

"In those days we didn't have a television, so news traveled very slowly, so what was happening in France and Germany about the war would come on the BBC at six," she said. "Now it's instant, and we don't have time to digest. It is overwhelming."

Despite a very bleak time in our world history, Fassino's comedic writing and stories will resonate with those readers who may be familiar with the hilarious English television comedy from the 1970s, "Upstairs Downstairs."

"It was a completely different way of living in those days," Fassino said. "It was vulgar to discuss money, religion and food and definitely not sex."

Fassino has uncovered many revelations about our modern world from taking a look back at the past, but her greatest discovery was reclaiming her family.

"I sent copies to my very scattered family, and this book has brought the entire family back together. It has been a huge pleasure to reunite my family, and I am thrilled."

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