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Ma Speaks Up: And a First-Generation Daughter Talks Back

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  116 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Marianne Leone's Ma is in many senses a larger than life character who shatters expectations (and glass picture frames). Born on a farm in Italy, Linda finds her way to the U.S. under dark circumstances. 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 d ...more
Hardcover, 198 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Beacon Press
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  116 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Sia Stewart
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this, having heard the author read from it at an event. She did the audio book as well. I love her voice and style. This is a story lovingly and artfully told. It's very honest, often funny, often moving. Very glad to have had this glimpse of the complicated relationship between two remarkable women.
This is a unique memoir, but don’t ask me specifically why it’s so unique. For days, I’ve been trying to figure that out. It must simply be Marianne Leone's own voice that makes it so special, particularly as contemporary memoirs go. I also wonder if a reader might need to be of a “certain age” to truly appreciate it, and not be appalled by the way Ms. Leone's mother behaved at times. It’s easy to see readers of younger generations writing off Linda Leone as an “abusive” mother, because she did ...more
May 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, fist-reads, own
This was an interesting read for me because I don't think I've read a mother-daughter memoir that was so honest as Ma Speaks Up. Marianne Leone is an entertaining writer and I enjoyed her book, her relationship with her mother was kind of sad though. I'm really close to my Mom so parts of this book were hard for me to connect to, but I appreciated how the author laid everything out there even if it maybe put some people in a bad light. You as the reader knew she was just telling her story.
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 first 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 Uncl ...more
Thanks to Book Club Cookbook for this book.

A fast moving book about a daughter's love and a lot of dislike for her very Italian mother and how she didnt speak good English and was embarrassed by that and her other ways but loved her too in her own way.

What made me laugh was even though she sent her daughter to Catholic school she was not very religious. A lot of homemade Italian food too and her mothers life after she and her father moved from Italy to MA. Her father died at the young age of 50
This is a review of the ARC, and so I can hope that the book gets significantly more editing before it gets published.

On the whole, it seems like an interesting read, in a second-generation immigrant talking about and to her mother kind of way. Unfortunately, the narrative is so incredibly rambling and random, that it's quite hard to follow. There are definitely some very interesting stories in here somewhere, but I'm not sure why anyone who isn't directly related would take the time to try and
Rita Ciresi
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best explorations of mother-daughter relationships I've ever read. If you found much to admire in Vivian Gornick's Fierce Attachments or Richard Russo's Elsewhere (a beautifully written and tender memoir about a mother/son relationship), you will fall head over heels for Ma Speaks Up. Ma is a fearsome, larger than life creature, and author Marianne Leone delves into her love/dislike relationship with Ma with humor and honesty. You don't have to be Italian or from an immigrant family t ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I often wonder think about the courage it takes to write a memoir. A memoir is so public, putting your life right out there, and while it may help to clarify one's thinking or to make sense of a life, there's no protection from the criticism or judgment of the reader.

Marianne Leone's writing is honest, unapologetic, and, in many places, her reflections do not cast her in the most positive light. Her mother's personality and ease with her body, which manifested itself in ways that ran counter t
Robin Moore
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
As the title indicates, the author writes about her mother, who fled Italy to avoid marriage to a much older man, and lands in Massachusetts where some relatives of her mother's lived. Leone, one of 3 children, grew up in Nonantum, the Italian section of Newton (aka "the lake"), where her father owned a bar and her mother was a homemaker, renowned for her cooking and delicious Italian dishes. Leone was often at odds with her Italian immigrant mother, whose English skills were poor, and her famil ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the collection of essays Ma Speaks Up, Marianne Leone explores the relationship she had with her immigrant Italian mother in a Massachusetts suburb in the 1960s, her destructive experiences at the hands of the nuns as she attended Catholic school, her relations to other family members, plus her own development as a first-generation American girl. The writing is both raw and erudite which exhibits Leone’s education and ability to walk the working class and white collar worlds without a blip. H ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I won this book as a giveaway from goodreads and was to give my review on it. Well, this book is a definite 5 star *****. This novel is a memoir about life and growing up with a mother who is an Italian immigrant. Marianne grows ashamed and embarrassed of her mother Linda.But as the author grows into an adult she realizes as most of daughters do, that mom really isn't that bad. Henceforth , this is the reason of " I became my mother ! ". This book was an easy read and although it did jump around ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways, reviews
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book when I received it. As I started reading I noticed quickly that it starts to jump around, a lot of randomness in this book. There are some humor points to it, but most of the time it just seemed like a mouthy teenager not respecting her mother, some brief points where she does admit she admires her mother. Overall I was very bored with this book and read it simply to see if it got better. I liked the mother and her sassy attitude and not letting people ...more
"Ma Speaks Up" is the story of a first generation American daughter born to an Italian immigrant with a complicated background. I really enjoyed the way the author told the story. She was resentful at times of her mom's broken English, blunt mannerisms, etc. But you can tell how much she cared for her mom and as she grew up, appreciated her mom. Love that she included recipes at the end of the book.

I received an advanced copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for my honest review.
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was difficult to read because it skipped around so much. A mother/daughter story, having finished the book I still don't know if 'Muddy-ahn' liked her mother.
I did enjoy Ma's stories though. She was a true drama queen. Thus 3 stars instead of 2.

I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you’re male, not of Italian decent and marrying into an Italian family you need to read this book so that you understand that everything that is, has or will happen around you is normal. Best part is you will never ever be without fantastic tales of family lore while enjoying food prepared with love. As I have and will continue to .... enjoy the ride.
Debbie Sarvis
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Poignant and funny exploration of old world-new world culture in the context of her mother-daughter relationship and the effect that had on becoming the person, writer, actress Marianne Leone is. I read this after attending her book reading at my local library, so I 'heard' the characters she describes in the voices she created for them. Delightful.
Lynn Huntington
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I had the opportunity to meet Marianne in person. Despite her fame and that of her husband's, she is a warm, charming person. Her coming of age story and relationship with her mother is most engaging. It is also a story of family secrets.
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Marianne Leone's memoir of her mother and her relationship with her mother is in turn heartbreaking, funny, warming, mordant humor, dark, light and everything inbetween. The audio version is especially incredible as it's read by the author--an actress as well as a writer.
Jacquelyn Fusco
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italy-tbr
I really enjoyed reading this book and related to it a lot. I think my mom is writing a similar book about our family and I might one day too. This is the kind of book that lives inside me. Remembering, honoring, cherishing, telling, sharing, figuring out.
Erin Clark
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very funny, loving and touching memoir of an old school Italian mother and her independent American born daughter and their tumultuous relationship. Marianne describes her 'Ma' to a T and shares with us some very interesting tales about how it was growing up with such a strong female lead in her life. Loved hearing about the family members and especially enjoyed the photos included towards the end. My own upbringing was completely different so my eyes got pretty wide at some of the things 'Ma' ...more
Edvige Giunta
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fierce and tender. Oh the power of the old generation of Italian women.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this memoir! In a time of much intense focus on the immigrant experience, (and danger that it may be severely limited or shutdown) it was wonderful to be immersed in this delightful story of Marianne Leone's childhood, and to be introduced to her Italian immigrant mother and family. As I read this book, I felt as if the tribal stories of our America, were being told to me around a fire. The clash of generational understanding, the shifting sentiments, emerging truths, and the ultimate re ...more
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I got this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Ma Speaks Up is a biography about Marianne Leone and her mother, who came to America as an immigrant.
It follows Mariannes life and thoughts throughout her youth, the relationship with her mother and other family, growing up herself and eventually, having to live without her mom.

The book is divided into chapters that all cover a certain aspect of their lives, or just a random subject. For instance, one chapter covers Ma's thoughts
Dayanara Ryelle
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
As always, Marianne is a fantastic writer (what a wonderful couple the Universe made!), but this could have been fleshed out more. It had the potential to be a fascinating read of Angela's Ashes proportion (especially the way her mother embellished), but the book just fell flat.

I suppose Knowing Jesse remains the better book because she spent seventeen years living his life with him; but she spent part of her own childhood ignoring her mother, leaving her with a dearth of source material.
Robert Simpson
rated it really liked it
Sep 03, 2017
rated it really liked it
Jul 10, 2019
Kyle Colby
rated it really liked it
Jan 23, 2020
Sandra Jeffries
rated it it was amazing
Apr 10, 2019
Stephen Jewkes
rated it liked it
Dec 08, 2019
Fred Chi
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May 24, 2020
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Marianne Leone is an actress, screenwriter and essayist. She had a recurring role on HBO's "Sopranos" as Joanne Moltisanti, Christopher's (Michael Imperioli's) mother. She has also appeared in films by John Sayles, Nancy Savoca and Martin Scorsese. Her essays and op ed pieces on a variety of topics have appeared in the Boston Globe. She is married to Chris Cooper, an academy-award winning actor an ...more

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