That neighborhood was a working-class suburb of Philadelphia riven by class distinction and haunted by contradiction: Her father, between fits of rage, tended the neighborhood’s most beautiful garden; her mother, gutsy poet and activist, suffered from paralyzing fears that kept her from leaving the house.
In Cappello’s hands, agoraphobia, usually considered a private malaise, is understood as a social condition, and Cappello deftly, lovingly reads her family’s “symptoms” for what they were trying to say.
Delicately interweaving the bilingual journals of her grandfather (a southern Italian shoemaker), her mother’s poetry, Sicilian folklore, and dreamwork with her own story, Mary Cappello writes as witness of the marks left on her family by immigration and assimilation. Night Bloom counters America’s obsession with Mafiosi at the same time that it exposes the daily violence of grinding proverty.
As a lesbian who has entered the middle class, Cappello celebrates the subversive desire in her immigrant family’s responses to the forces shaping their lives, and in the Catholic icons, television superheroes, and disco divas with whom she identified as a child.
“One never cultivates a flower without also provoking a dream.” In Night Bloom, Mary Cappello resuscitates such dreams and offers us her family’s unsung art — their gardens, letters and rosary beads — for the lessons they teach us about creativity and loss.
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Praise for Night Bloom
“When I first encountered Mary Cappello’s work, I was knocked out by her original voice, the juxtaposition of its fierceness and elegance, its brutality and gentleness, its sensuousness and intelligence. She’s a writer whose debut memoir you can’t miss; she’s a writer you’ll tell all your friends about, as I did.” — Louise DeSalvo, author of Vertigo
“In this remarkable memoir, Mary Cappello explores the legacy of her family with not only grace of style but a kind of grace of being. Cappello’s journey is engrossing and her book both modifies and extends the tradition of Italian American literature in important ways. Night Bloom is fierce, honest, and deeply affecting. I hope it finds the large audience it deserves.” — Jay Parini, author of Benjamin’s Crossing
“Reading your book [Night Bloom] has been an incredibly rich experience. Did you happen to visit the Martorana, in Palermo, while you were in Sicily? If not, it’s a Moorish building with a Byzantine interior, covered with frescos. During services, which are long, the choir sings at the same time that the priest prays and the parish responds. All the while, incense is filling the air. I keep coming up with this image when I think of the sensory and evocative layers in your writing. Please put me on your mailing list!” — Pat Benny, a reader
“Cappello’s writing is characterized by a unique combination of the systematic and the impressionistic, by meticulous grace and ardency. Where others may primly compartmentalize their allegiances to theory and practice, to poetry and criticism, Mary synthesizes them triumphantly. In the past ten years, she has produced some of the finest theoretically informed criticism in the field of American literature, in a mode that could be called, if it were common enough to require a name, the lyric intellectual…We’re inclined to think of thought and feeling as opposites; Mary’s work is dedicated to the principle that these capacities are united, and with its exacting cadences, its spontaneous intellectual riffs, it shows us how they can be.” — From an introduction to a reading in North Carolina by James Morrison, author of Broken Fever: Reflections of Gay Boyhood
“A sweet, elegiac recollection of her lineage in this country…The literature of immigration has produced such notable works as the novels Giants in the Earth and Call It Sleep in which strongly delineated characters emerge from the immigrant masses…Cappello’s book can take an hon