Sinners of Starlight City

Written by Anika Scott
Review by Karen Bordonaro

This riveting story plays out at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago (Starlight City), but its setting also encompasses Sicily during the years of Mussolini’s rise in Italy. The main character, Rosa, both belongs and does not belong to each of these worlds. Born of mixed heritage in the United States, she and her Sicilian-born mother flee Chicago when she is nine years old. The following six years are spent in Sicily, where she crosses paths with a cousin who is a Mussolini supporter. Tragic events unfold in Sicily, with Rosa forced this time to flee on her own. Joining a circus, Rosa becomes an exotic dancer who returns to Chicago for the World’s Fair where she meets her Sicilian cousin again. While there, her American cousin gives birth to her own mixed-heritage child and comes to Rosa for shelter.

Illusions, magic, and kinship strongly reverberate throughout this novel. Rosa incorporates tricks of illusion and magical interludes into her act which dazzle, amaze, and distract her audience. The question of what is real and what is not flows into familial relationships as well. Navigating a world of fascists, racists, and mobsters, Rosa must decide who can be believed, who can be trusted, and if she can distinguish justice from vengeance. Her choices are fraught with danger. In the end, who the sinners really are is left up to the reader to decide. Highly recommended for its fast-paced narrative, its memorable cross-cultural characters, and its striking setting.