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My Dear Antonio


A Love Story of Italian Immigration, From Brooklyn to Sicily to Tunisia, From the Great War to the Great Depression

My Dear Antonio is inspired by the love story of Byrnes’ great-grandparents— children of the Sicilian diaspora separated from their families on the Mediterranean coast who loved, parted, and found each other again seven years and three continents later.


In 1912, after barely surviving a near-fatal asthma attack, Sicilian emigrant Anna DiNicola leaves her family in Brooklyn to seek a cure in the balmy climate of Tunisia. Detesting her dependency on her aunt, she works towards independence by weaving wedding shawls for the Sephardic Jewish community. However, her apprenticeship comes with an expectation that she will marry her mentor’ s son while her heart lies with someone else.


Antonio Orlando, a Sicilian native, dreams of working in his father’ s barber shop, but mafia force his father to close the shop and emigrate to America, abandoning Antonio. To avoid the mafia, Antonio moves in with his uncle, a barber in Tunisia. He befriends Anna during her regular haircuts and begins to wonder if home is not a place but rather a person. When he accepts a betrothal to his cousin that would enable him to return to Sicily, Antonio must choose between his duty to family and his heart.

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