Born in "Hell’s Kitchen", New York City, the girl-child of Maltese immigrants, Cecile moves to Brooklyn with her parents and older brother.
In her early years, she is immersed in a culture of hero worship of her brother, and a currency of marbles.
The feisty young girl tells her tale in the language of a child who travels halfway around the world to arrive in Australia on her fifth birthday.
She relates the wonders she experiences on the journey by ship to Malta, then on the airplane to Australia.
In Malta, she meets her parents’ families for the first time. Cecile strives to engage with her cultural heritage, but she and her brother are seen as outsiders by their cousins.
Once in Australia, Cecile is on a quest to find her place in a community that sees olive-skinned people as interlopers. She re-lives the agony of her first day at Catholic school, where she is treated as “lesser than” the blue- eyed, fair-haired students, by the “rickety old nun”.
Her family moves from living in one room, to a bungalow at the back of a milk bar, to a boarding house shared with her newly acquired surrogate Maltese uncles. After three years in rented rat-holes, her family are offered a house on the outskirts of Melbourne. There she is embraced by a flourishing community of immigrants of various nationalities.
Initially shunted between primary schools, she finally finds her place at Broadmeadows East PS. There she is encouraged by her teachers to aim high.
Growing up in the 1960s, Cecile thrives in a culture where respect for elders and family are a "given". She relates the highs of going to the drive-in, Myer's cafeteria, Geelong beach, and having the rellos over for Sunday feasts.
Despite obstacles of immigration, multiple housing relocations, and disruption to her education, Cecile excels at primary school and sees her early childhood as a magical time. The story ends with her looking forward to a world, and a life, of adventure.
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