When actress Tembi Locke met Saro, a handsome and kind Italian chef on a street in Florence, they fell hard for each other. Their transracial relationship drew derision from his family in Sicily who were unhappy that he would want to marry a Black American. Deeply in love, they married and settled in Los Angeles, but he became ill with a rare cancer.

Locke cared for him for close to a decade before he passed, leaving her in despair.

Her debut book, “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home (Simon & Shuster; $26.95),” honors the memory of her husband, as she builds a new life for their daughter, Zoela, and returns to his hometown on the island of Sicily.

“It lived many years in my my imagination, not even as a book, but as something that I felt needed to be expressed,” recalled Locke. “I just didn’t know how or in what way and I sat down and I began writing. And, I had been writing during Soro’s illness, mostly as a way to make sense of my life experience while I was a caregiver for 10 years. Writing became a way for me to kind of have something that was just for me a way to express the things that all caregivers know can be really challenging: you can’t share those directly with your partner, but I needed a place for myself and the page became that place for me. So after his passing, I had written, you know, pages upon pages of things about that period of my life, and at the time, which I also became a mother. And so there was, so I had to all of that, and I didn’t know that it had a shape or what I would do with it, or if it even needed to do anything with it. And then it my grief, I kept trying to hold on to memory and really keep him alive at the every level: at the level of the palate, and at the cellular level inside of me in my imagination. I just kept writing and it became apparent about three years after his passing maybe there’s a book here.”

Locke chronicles the three summers she and her daughter spent there bonding with Saro’s mother cooking rustic southern Italian foods together in a tiny hamlet of farmers. In strengthening the relationship with his family, she learned about love, parenthood, forgiveness, multicultural identity, and culinary discovery.

“It’s my story, but it’s also his story, and I think in some ways, it’s a lot of our stories,” Locke reflects. “It touches on the way in which all of us when we’re in that deep grief, we are bleeding inside, we don’t demonstrate it on the outside. So the days that I was writing about those parts of my feelings, I had to go right back into it to be able to share it and write about it.”

is featured in the TEDx talk, “What Forty Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief,” and traces her journey as a cancer caregiver and has been viewed over 70,000 times. Locke is also the founder of the online platform, The Kitchen Widow http://thekitchenwidow.com/.

bbooker@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5749

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