The acclaimed actress and author of Jesse: A Mother’s Story tells the story of her outspoken, frequently outrageous Italian immigrant mother.
Marianne Leone’s Ma is in many senses a larger-than-life character, one who might be capable, even from the afterlife, of shattering expectations. Born on a farm in Italy, Linda finds her way to the United States under dark circumstances, having escaped a forced marriage to a much older man, and marries a good Italian boy. She never has full command of English, especially when questioned by authorities, and when she is suddenly widowed with three young children, she has few options. To her daughter’s horror and misery, she becomes the school lunch lady.
Ma Speaks Up is a record of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, with the wrong family, in the wrong religion. Though Marianne’s girlhood is flooded with shame, it’s equally packed with adventure, love, great cooking, and, above all, humor. The extremely premature birth of Marianne’s beloved son, Jesse, bonds mother and daughter in ways she couldn’t have imagined. The stories she tells will speak to anyone who has struggled with outsider status in any form and, of course, to mothers and their blemished, cherished girls.
This book actually made me angry. When I chose to read this I figured this was going to be right up my alley. Nope. I was never as spoiled and selfish as this woman was. I would never have thought to talk to my mother or any of my family in this manner. I am a daughter of a second generation Italian father and Hungarian Mother. I am about the same age as the author. I grew up in the same type of ethnic neighborhood as the author and the house as my Hungarian Greats and Grands and an Aunt and Uncle. The Italian Greats, Grand etc lived a few houses down. I never felt shame for any of my family, lest of all my mother, for what she was and how she behaved. Not did I feel for any shame that my grandparents couldn't speak proper English or hold better jobs than what they found. My friends grew up the same way (and so did the author's), what the heck is there to be ashamed about???