What I Would Do for You is the story of one Italian family’s journey from pre- to post-World War II Italy.
It undertakes the Italian colonization of the Horn of Africa and the related subsequent emigration of Italians to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, where brutal living conditions came to represent a strange and bungled chapter in labor segregation. The American Arabian Oil Company employed thousands of Italians in Saudi Arabia between 1944 and 1954.
How do historical and political conditions mirror and challenge individuals? For example, while for the lead character, the mother, Dina, colonialism is an escape, a freeing luxury which she deeply regrets losing, for her daughter this colonial past represents a shameful personal burden. This large, if past, historical moment continues to live and act like a character engendering growing dissolution between mother and daughter. Meanwhile, for the father, Tommaso, working most of his life as an emigrant in Saudi Arabia, is bitterly isolating.
Relationships between the novel’s central characters shift and veer with each geographical move. How is love affected by exterior parameters? How much is love political? What results from our being born in a particular time and place? The three central characters differentiate and determine their circumstances in opposing ways despite their shared landscapes.