When CIRI shareholder Janna Yancey, of Anchorage, was a little girl, she dreamed of two things: seeing her name on a card in a library catalogue and meeting the pope. “I was always really drawn to the Italian culture,” Janna said—an affinity that’s led to the publication of her first coauthored book and made at least one of her dreams come true.
Raven’s Daughter, co-authored by Janna and Pietro Corsi, was published in English and Italian, as part of the book’s first-place win for the Martinsicuro Book Festival in Italy. The book, which was born out of a chance airport encounter in 1987, was selected out of 240 international entries and tells the story of Janna’s adoption and her complicated relationship with her heritage.
At 17 years old, Janna was waiting for a connection to take her back to San Luis Obispo, where she was attending school. Italian writer Pietro Corsi was passing through Los Angeles International Airport on his way to Fort Lauderdale. When she took an empty seat next to Corsi at her gate, the two writers struck up a conversation so engaging that Janna missed her flight three times.
“Meeting Pietro, him being Italian and a writer too, left such an impression on me,” she recalled.
Over the years they lost contact, until Janna decided to look her old friend up online. “I emailed him and we started talking,” she said. “He encouraged me to write my story. To me, it was like therapy. At first, I was just giving him a bunch of facts, but soon Pietro helped me through the emotional part of my story. He asked questions, and I would be able to talk about it without having to write it down.”
“Every story allows us to know something of our world that we didn’t before,” said Corsi, who surprised Janna when he told her he was entering the book they’d written together in the contest. “Janna’s is an extraordinary story of Alaska, exceptional both for those who know the state and those who don’t.”
Raven’s Daughter was released in Italy, and plans for its U.S. debut are underway. In the meantime, Janna will travel to Martinsicuro, Italy for the prize announcement. “I see things that I wished for as a kid happening now, and it’s so exciting,” she said. “If I get the opportunity to meet the pope, too, I will shake that man’s hand for sure.”