As the mother of three left-handed children, I am fascinated by left-handedness. During the course of my research for The Gondola Maker, I read a lot about how left-handed people were perceived in past centuries. In the story of The Gondola Maker, Luca’s left-handedness plays a crucial role in the story. It informs his self-image, his relationship with his father, and his destiny as a master craftsman. Read on…
Excerpted from The Gondola Maker:
One of my earliest memories was overhearing a neighbor woman whisper that the gondola maker’s eldest son was marked by the devil. My father must have believed it, as he did his best to undo my curse. In the boatyard, I was not allowed to pick up tools with my left hand. I lived for most of a year with my left hand tied behind my back during my hours in the boatyard, untied only at mealtime. Even now, I feel the knuckles of my left hand tingle when my father raises his voice.
It was my mother who taught me to temper my ever-present compulsion to use my sinister hand, as she herself had had to do. At the table and in our parish church, she had squeezed my left hand tightly while teaching me to make the sign of the cross with my right. In public, she instructed me to sit on my left hand, or keep it in my pocket; in private, she reminded me that the left hand was the “hand of the heart.” At night she nursed my knuckles, bruised and swollen from where my father had struck them with a rasp each time I had reached for an implement.
I never mastered the tools with my right hand nearly as well as with my left. Eventually, Father gave up trying to force me to use my “correct” hand in the boatyard, and assigned many of the duties that the eldest son might be expected to do to my brother, who is gifted with dexterity and unmarked by Satan. My uncle and cousins mercifully turned a blind eye to my affliction, and my brother loved me anyway. I did what I could to make beautiful and seaworthy boats, just like my father and grandfather. Our work carried on.
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