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Ma Speaks Up: And a First Generation…

Ma Speaks Up: And a First Generation Daughter Talks Back

by Marianne Leone

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book disappointing. I expected something entertaining and informative, that would give me a feel for what it was like to grow up a first generation Italian American. Instead, I got a lot of venting and whining and not much cultural insight. The last half of the book was more entertaining than the first, but I would not recommend it. ( )
  Marlane | May 22, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A poignant and insightful memoir of a daughter and her relationship with her Italian immigrant mother. Marianne Leone offers an amusing glimpse into her teenage angst and unbridled embarrassment over her widowed mother's behavior and presentations. Linda Leone's choices in life often lead to clashes and misunderstandings between the two. The author's redemption for her past behavior lies in the rewards of fully appreciating and acknowledging the love she had for this unique and fiercely independent woman. ( )
  alandee | May 16, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book through Library Thing's Early Reviewers program.

There is no doubt that Ms. Leone can write. However, the subject matter is the problem here.

First, I'll admit that part of my problem with the book is Ms. Leone's anti-Catholicism. Hey, I'm Catholic and I'm angry about a lot of things the Church has done and I know a lot of now non-practicing Catholic who are incredibly bitter. But you're not allowed to make stuff up out of whole cloth. I'm a few years older than she is and her version of the 6 commandments of the Church isn't the one I learned. So, I did some googling. The version she quotes is from 1886. It's possible, but extremely unlikely, that that version was still being taught when Ms. Leone went to school. However, even that version does not include "Not to marry persons who are not Catholics..." Hey, maybe the nuns in Newton added it on their own. However, any non-Catholics reading the book shouldn't believe it's part of the 6 commandments of the Church--because it isn't and wasn't when Ms. Leone was a Catholic school girl. Lots of Catholics married non-Catholics in the Catholic Church.

The biggest problem though is that this book really isn't about her mother. It's more about Ms. Leone. IMO, the title and the description are misleading. The book would be more aptly titled something like "The Experience of a First Generation American Daughter Who Is Embarrassed by Her Immigrant Mother and Comes to Appreciate Her in Middle Age."

For example, Ms. Leone devotes a fair amount of time to describing her Catholic school experience. IMO, this has almost nothing to do with her mother, who doesn't believe in Catholicism, although she does sent her 3 children to Catholic school. Given the marriage dynamic portrayed in the book, it was probably her husband's decision. But, nowhere in the book does Ms. Leone ask her mother why she sent her children to Catholic schools if she herself is a non-Believer. Because she doesn't, all the stories about the awful Irish nuns, e.g., strip searching a girl believed to be wearing a padded bra, tell us nothing whatsoever about Ma.

I also don't get the "Ma Speaks Up" part of the title because Ma doesn't do much of that in the book. It portrays the Ma of the title as a woman who was content to be the satellite to her "Sun God" husband.

There are some other errors a proof reader should have caught. I read an ARC, so maybe one did. (Example: at one point Ma's half-sister is referred to as her stepsister. I thought another character had been introduced.)

I've never seen the Sopranos and I hadn't a clue who Ms. Leone was. So, I also found it extremely annoying when she kept referring to her famous actor husband Chris. I get that the book wasn't about her marriage. Still, in context it came across as "I'm so famous that of course all of you already know my husband's identity."

So, it was an okay read, but with lots of books competing for attention, it's not one I'd put on the top of the pile. I I also ended up disliking Ms. Leone herself. Maybe that was intentional--made to make us sympathize with Ma. It felt like if Ma could send a message from the next world it would be "Even in a book she says is about me Marianne talks more about herself." ( )
  Jonri | May 13, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was hoping by the title that we would get to hear all about Ma's life through Ma's own words. Unfortunately, we heard it through Marianne's words 99.9% of the time, with Marianne's perspective. It would have been nice to hear from Ma herself, through interviews or other people close to her.

I also felt like the book was a little discombobulated...it seemed to flit back and forth through time without a reason. The author is talented, but I'm not sure the structure of the book was thought through. Certainly touches on the mother-daughter dynamic we see in many families. ( )
  beachmama43 | May 8, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book spoke to me concerning my relationship with my mother, although my mother and I are very different from Ms. Leone and her mother, in culture and in temperament. I enjoyed reading this from cover to cover; I smiled, laughed, and cried. She did not hold back from telling the hard truths about her mother's background and experiences, and their relationship as it changed through the years. ( )
  FancyHorse | May 2, 2017 |
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