Vertigo: A Memoir / Edition 1

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In her no-holds-barred family memoir, controversial scholar-critic Louise DeSalvo breaks the traditional silence around life for an Italian American girl coming of age in working-class Hoboken, New Jersey. Upon first publication, DeSalvo’s memoir–which sifts through painful memories of childhood incest, a sister’s suicide, a mother’s psychotic depression, and a father’s violent rage–enjoyed wide acclaim as an instant classic of the genre, written in "one of the most refreshing feminist voices around."—San Francisco Chronicle

Marketing Plans:
East Coast readings
Extensively promoted with new anthology Taste This: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Identity

Louise DeSalvo is professor of English at Hunter College. She has published thirteen books, including the acclaimed Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Her Life and Work.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
DeSalvo (Conceived with Malice) frankly, and wisely, states that her memories of how she grew from a working-class, Italian American child in Hoboken to become a Virginia Woolf scholar may not be accurate because memory cannot always be trusted. This account, with its emphasis on her early years, is the way it seems to her to have been. Her happiest time, she claims, was during WWII, when the world as she saw it was composed only of women and children (she was only three at the war's end). Then the men returned and life became grim. Later her mother became depressed and was institutionalized, her sister committed suicide, she herself was sexually abused by a female family member. Books and the public library were her refuge. In hindsight she finds parallels between her life and Virginia Woolf's that might escape a casual reader. She also sees them in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, which she saw 11 times in one week when she was 15. A more exuberant period came in suburban Ridgefield, N.J., during what she calls her boy crazy period: "I have, in quick succession, `dated' the entire starting line up of my high school's basketball team... many of its football players, all the baseball infielders, and a few wrestlers." DeSalvo clearly has a sense of humor, and although her success in lifeshe repeatedly stresses the problems of being Italian, working class and a "girl"may not be as unique as she seems to think, her clarity of insight and expression makes this an impressive achievement. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Growing up Italian American in the 1950s and observing the women around her, DeSalvo became keenly aware of the severely limited opportunities available to women generally. Determined not to live a life like her mother's, filled with frustration, depression, and fear, she turned to literature and education for solace and direction. This memoir traces DeSalvo's struggle to become a woman independent in her own right and eventually a professor at Hunter College and author of the biographical study Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work (LJ 2/1/90), among other books. DiSalvo conveys her experiences with wit, style, and creativity yet permits the pathos of her life to surface occasionally, for example when she describes her attempts to deal with her mother's death and her sister's suicide. Writing and research provide the focus and stability in her life, relieving an ever-hovering tendency toward depression and illness. Her story will inspire all women faced with making choices in today's dizzying atmosphere.Nancy Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Carolyn See
"Riveting...astonishing...the writing is terrific." -- Los Angeles Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558613959
  • Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
  • Publication date: 8/1/2002
  • Series: The Cross-Cultural Memoir Series Series
  • Edition description: 1ST FEMINI
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 700,756
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction ix
Prologue xxxi
1 Fixing Things 1
2 My Sister's Suicide 13
3 Combat Zones 38
4 Finding My Way 66
5 Safe Houses 87
6 Colored Paper 116
7 Spin the Bottle 130
8 Boy Crazy 145
9 Vertigo 161
10 The Still Center of the Turning Wheel 189
11 Anorexia 200
12 A Portrait of the Puttana as a Woman in Midlife 219
13 Personal Effects 242
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    Great book!

    I think this book is really great. Louise is an amazing author, and she is wonderful to hear speak. If you get the chance, go see her. This book gives a different perspective on growing up in an Italian-American family, perhaps even a more realistic one. I have read and re-read the book, and am currently reading it for the third time. Highly reccomended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2003


    I began reading 'Vertigo' as an assigned reading requirement for a creative writing class and soon found myself reading far beyond assigned pages, wanted to delve further into the world Louise creates in this wonderful book! I recommend it to everyone. Her writing has changed how I see my own writing, and has become an inspiration to me. It saved me in many ways.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2011

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