“Looking for Alibrandi” by Melina Marchetta provides useful and valuable insights into cultural misunderstandings between Australian and Italian families, relationships and prejudices particularly between Josie, her friends and family. Cross-cultural issues are explored in depth in “Looking for Alibrandi”. The novel shows the family traditional values within Josie’s family, one of these being Tomato Day. This cultural tradition is important because it fosters greater unity between family members. In addition, Italian family culture has a deep meaning about spending time with family.
On the contrary, Josie, a 17 year old Italian-Australian girl, being an Australian of Italian descent, Josie resents some of the Italian traditions and is not too pleased about observing these traditions; since she thinks ‘Tomato Day’ is a ‘National Wog Day’, she says it in negatively and dishonourably tone. Josie’s perception of Italian culture is really despite to Nonna’s; Nonna shows a lot of respects and protection to the family name and traditions, while Josie resents and unaccepted to her values. Hence, Josie, Christina and Nonna, share a major age gap between them and examines the difference in generation gap in depth.
As Nonna lied to Josie and her relatives that Josie’s father died before Christina gave birth to Josie, thus Christina and Josie are misunderstanding to Nonna and also did not accept with what she did. It shows the differences in generation’s point of view towards Christina’s pregnancy. Furthermore, “Looking for Alibrandi” also displays relationships in a lot of depth, for instance, the relationships between Josie and Michael Andretti, Jacob Coote and John Barton. Josie meets Michael Andretti angrily because he left Josie’s mother when she got pregnant; therefore Josie became illegitimate child with no father.
However, when Josie feels helpless and struggle after she hits Carly’s nose, she can only think about Michael to help her as a barrister and father. This event demonstrates that Josie really wants to and be proud of having father; they had more trust and build up the father- daughter relationships too. Josie’s final year of high school transforms her from the childhood world of dependence on her mother to dealing with adults like Michael Andretti and Jacob Coote. Jacob, the school captain of Cook High School, Josie calls him an ‘individualist’, because he has a strong personality, sensitive and independent as a typical Australian.
Jacob feels uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations as he finds it difficult to understand with Josie’s Italian cultural background, he does not respect and think the traditions should not be maintained. For example, once, Jacob gave a sexual advance to Josie, but she is unwillingness to make love and told Jacob clearly that Italian thinking is more traditional and different to Australian’s. Sexual activity is not by accepted to Italian, but Australian just sees this as a normal practise.
By comparison between Jacob Coote and John Barton, they are both Australian, but living in very different attitudes and family. John has weak and low self-image who comes from a well-educated family. Josie admires him and they have a very good relationship, but Josie did not realise that John is very upset as he is under a lot of pressure by his father to become ‘the best prime minster’, therefore, John’s father and people around John have a high expectation of him. As a result, John gets a lot of pressure that he thinks no one would understand him.
John’s pressure from unconfident about passing the HSC, forces him to commit suicide. This does upset Josie but it also makes her a lot more resilient too. “Looking for Alibrandi”, also illustrates many prejudices between rich and poor people, and the racial prejudice. St. Martha is Josie’s school which is “dominated by white Australian”, high-class and rich people. Children of wealthy migrants accepted because of their wealth, which cause a social discrimination as Josie finds hard to cope in this school with her strong Italian and middle working class family background.
The novel shows that although Australia is a multicultural society, but it still has racist problems with people from different culture backgrounds. Melina Marchetta always uses the word “Wog”, which is an offensive word to coloured skin people especially Italian, which is throughout the whole novel to inspire readers in racist issues. For instant, Ivy comes from high-class Australian family, who is not accept Josie as an Australia, but a completely Italian immigrant with strong Italian culture background. This idea is clearly expressed in these words “You’re a new Australians wear black a lot don’t you Josephine? “Looking for Alibrandi” emphasises some important cultural, relationship and social and racial prejudices among people from different cultural background. It examines the strength and resilience of Josie to cope with the relationship with family, John Barton’s dead and Jacob Coot’s sexual advance, and the intolerance of Italian traditions by Nonna. This novel makes readers aware of to see the beauty in other culture, because the world has many different cultures, we need to be respect, although there may have something that you may not except.