URI professor's Night Bloom wins flowery
KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 30, 1999 -- It takes a writer like Mary Cappello
of Providence, an associate professor of English at URI, to show that life
is full of contradictions, but they grow from the same roots. She reveals
just that in her powerful memoir Night Bloom, published this past fall by
For example, the Night-Blooming Cereus, a plant that figures in her family,s
story and only blossoms after sunset. "It,s a witchy, bewitching, hideous
monstrosity of a plant, Cappello says in her memoir "whose flower is
Cappello, a second-generation Italian-American, finds beauty growing
with the ugly: Her father, between fits of rage, tended the most delicate
garden in their working-class Philadelphia suburb. Her mother, an agoraphobic
whose fears kept her from leaving the house for seven years, spoke out against
racism, wrote feminist sermons for a progressive parish priest, and recited
fiery poetry at the dinner table. Her aunt mourned her young daughter,s
death by crafting thousands of rosary beads.
Night Bloom is Cappello,s complex look at her family and consequently
at herself. Deftly interweaving the bilingual journals of her grandfather
(a Southern Italian shoemaker), her mother,s poetry, and Sicilian folklore,
she recounts growing up in a neighborhood "where nothing was meant
The book is a memoir of a family. "At its best, my memoir is a memoir
of class, class mobility, and the violence created by class distinction,
says the author.
Cappello sees the lines between fiction and memoir as very thin. Memoir
is a fiction, she says, but with a very specific theme"memory itself.
The memoir is a story about memory.
Cappello says she reads others, memoirs because she longs to know how
they have marshaled the resources at their disposal to reinvent the relationship
between the past and present.
A poet and author of scholarly essays, Cappello found her decision to
work with the memoir form had to do with her being a lesbian and the acute
realization of the oppressive uses (for both gays and straights) to which
sexual definitions are put in modern culture. "If any memoir needs
to resist the confessional mode it is the queer memoir, for the discourse
of sexuality and the confessional work hand in hand in our culture, she
Cappello,s book is attracting a lot of well-deserved attention. It,s
been reviewed in numerous publications, including Women,s Review of Books.
Cappello was interviewed by Canadian Public Radio and was invited to be
the D.B. Shaw lecturer at Dickinson College this April. She also has been
invited to participate in the Deep South Writers conference this fall. Cappello
has been nominated by an editor at W. W. Norton to be a fellow at the prestigious
Breadloaf Writer,s Conference, held each summer at Middlebury College.
Cappello,s mother implored her daughter to look with the same kind of
convictions most Italian mothers tell their children to mangia! (eat!).
"Winter has its colorful berries, too, she would show me. Appreciate.
Love. Live. Remember. Remember what you see and it will be a life in you,
a flame turned to low, and it could be a bounty you give to others.
Fortunately for the reader, Cappello has followed her mother,s advice
For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116