In the words of its native son, Dr. Pietro Bartolo, the Italian island of Lampedusa is 'a small piece of the earth’s crust that broke off from Africa and drifted toward Europe.' In recent years, its path across the sea has been traced by hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East who land in Lampedusa on their way to Europe ... From his post on Favoloro Pier, Bartolo awaits them — sometimes treating them for conditions contracted on these brutal journeys, sometimes preparing their bodies for burial ... But he does not look away, and he does not let us look away, either ... It is rare to read about the life of someone like Bartolo in his own words. The journalist Lidia Tilotta, listed as a co-author of Tears of Salt, did a fine job of preserving the tone of the doctor’s stories, arranging them in 32 short, plain-spoken sections.
Pietro Bartolo runs the sole medical clinic in his homeland of Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island 70 miles off the coast of Tunisia that has become the gateway — and graveyard — for an unending stream of refugees trying to escape the varied horrors confronting them in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Bartolo’s Tears of Salt, written with Italian journalist Lidia Tilotta, is equal parts memoir, celebration of his birthplace and report from the front. Above all, though, it is a plea for compassion ... But it’s not the massive numbers that give Bartolo’s account its emotional impact — it’s the attention he focuses on individual survivors... Bartolo tells many such stories of courage and sacrifice.
You would think that this [the unfortunate events that've happened to the refugees] would make Bartolo’s brief memoir, Tears of Salt (written with Lidia Tilotta), almost unreadable and, in fact, there is much in this book that is hard to process. Yet I would argue that it’s a work not to be missed ... Not only does Bartolo shake the world’s complacency...but he also limns his narrative with great compassion and humanity ...Bartolo’s book serves as a powerful reminder of a very different kind of human response. His passionate advocacy on behalf of the flood of strangers continually showing up on his shores is deeply moving. One can only hope that it will prove contagious.