Elisa Speranza is the granddaughter of Irish and Italian immigrants, raised Catholic, and educated by nuns. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Ms. Speranza came to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2002 and forgot to go home. She’s been a writer and book nerd all her life. Her first paid job was in the children’s room of her town’s public library and she was a journalist early in her career.
After a successful career in water and environmental management, Ms. Speranza now brings her deep experience in strategy, operations, communications, and marketing to an eclectic portfolio of clients. She is a frequent speaker and panelist with an extensive network from her thirty-plus years in the government, business, and non-profit arenas. She has been published in professional journals and textbooks, is a well-known leader in her field, and serves on several company boards.
In 2017 Ms. Speranza’s company was acquired and she took a leap into post-corporate life. The more flexible schedule allowed her to pursue a project that had been burning a hole in her pocket since she first heard a friend’s story about his parents: an Italian prisoner-of-war and a French Quarter Sicilian girl who met during World War Two in New Orleans. In the course of her work, Ms. Speranza has connected with a number of scholars, researchers, and others who’ve been piecing together the little-known stories of some of the 51,000 Italian POWs held in the US from 1943-1945.
Together with Sal Serio, Curator of the American Italian Library, Ms. Speranza started a treasure hunt for information, artifacts, and people. She and Mr. Serio identified 10 local families who had descended from the Italian POWs held at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward during the war. One of the POWs, Giovanni DiStefano and one of the wives, Marguerite (Graffagnini) Maranto are still very much alive and have generously shared their stories. Others left written and audio records with their children and grandchildren. On April 20, 2019, Ms. Speranza and Mr. Serio hosted an event to bring these families together and share their findings with the community—including a guest appearance by Mr. DiStefano. Ms. Speranza has begun documenting the individual family stories in the American Italian Digest and on her blog.
THE ITALIAN PRISONER (79,764 words, historical fiction) is Ms. Speranza’s first novel. It’s the story of what happens when an unlikely courtship with an Italian prisoner-of-war forces the daughter of Sicilian immigrants to choose between tradition and independence. The author had expert guidance from the New Orleans Writers Workshop throughout the development of the book. In 2019, it placed as a finalist in the prestigious William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Competition in the novel-in-progress category.
Ms. Speranza earned a master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a bachelor’s in political science from Boston College. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. For more information on her career, please visit the website for her business, Seventh Ward Strategies, LLC. To find out more about the book, please visit The Italian Prisoner or contact the author directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on social media via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.