Blue Suburbia is a searing memoir so fresh, original, and honest that it will break your heart and renew your faith in the human spirit.
With each spare stroke of her pen, Laurie Lico Albanese paints a vivid portrait of the blue-collar landscape of her childhood rusted swing sets, auto body shops, greasy hands, home improvements taking readers along for the wild, treacherous ride that leads to her escape. Her mother may stand silently at the sink year after year, or lie in the basement weeping, but Albanese is determined to flee the deadening certainty of her parents' lives. Her story does not disappoint us.
By turns haunting, hilarious, tragic, and romantic, Blue Suburbia is the chronicle of a determined young woman who overcomes family limitations, socio-economic obstacles, and personal fears to build a happy and blessedly ordinary life. Written entirely in free verse, Blue Suburbia's cadence is a steady, rhythmic heartbeat, pulsing with pain, rebellion, love, and triumph. This is the story many of us might tell, if we had the courage.
About the Author
Laurie Albanese is the author of the novel Lynelle by the Sea and the memoir Blue Suburbia, which was named a Book Sense Best Book of the Year and was an Entertainment Weekly Editor's Choice selection.
Read an Excerpt
Almost a Memoir
The Story of My Life
First thing is the belt
worn soft from my father's pant loops
curling like a black eternity glyph
across my legs,
pliant back of my thighs,
hard shin of my calves
in bed, almost always in bed
almost always in the dark
the strap in his fist
or standing in the middle of my bedroom
drawing leather in a whisper
from the waist of his pants
at least three times a week
for five years or more
that's seven hundred times --
I know, he taught me math
the same way
because I was stubborn
he says, the belt was a mercy,
if I'd used my hands
I would have broken
I love my father.
How can I tell the story of my life
without starting here?
Almost a Memoir. Copyright © by Laurie Albanese. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
|Blue Suburbia, Aerial View||3|
|Tales from Childhood|
|The Story of My Life||7|
|219 Maple Street||9|
|Five Best Ways to Maim a Man||12|
|Just Shake, and Bake||20|
|Catcher in the Rye||23|
|Accident, Part I||34|
|Accident, Part II||35|
|Prelude: In My Studio||56|
|Real Men Don't Eat Quiche||58|
|In the Museum of Modern Art||60|
|Looking for Love|
|Nine Ways to Midnight||65|
|A New Life|
|The Next Generation||86|
|Minding My Own Business||95|
|"Good Night, Mom"||108|
|How You Mourn a Mother||110|
|When She Comes to Me||111|
|Losing My Way|
|My Road Not Taken||119|
|Fight or Flee||124|
|Six Months Later--||126|
|On the Couch||132|
|The Doctor Helps Me See||134|
|Out of the Blue|
|What Saved Me?||139|
|The Fine Edge||144|
|The Woman Sets the Tone||153|
|If I Didn't Have Children||156|
|Jack Tries So Hard||167|
|Please, Let Me In||168|
|Lies We Tell Our Children||171|
|At the Dining Room Table||177|
|Eye of the Self||179|
|Teaching Schoolchildren to Write About Snow||189|
|Moon over New York||205|
Reading Group Guide
The critically acclaimed author of Lynelle by the Sea now shines a light on the darkness of her past and her quest for happiness in Blue Suburbia. Told in the snapshot form of poems, Laurie Lico Albanese's unique autobiography quickly pulls readers into the compelling slideshow of her life.
In "Blue Suburbia, Aerial View" we are introduced to her childhood and family. What at first seems ordinary in this blue-collar Long Island setting -- her mother cooking, father assembling a bike, sister sleeping -- soon becomes bleak. Her mother's quiet curse, "you are too damn smart for your own good," echoes throughout the book and sets the stage for the author's life-long journey to finding self worth. "The Story of My Life" continues the introduction by unveiling the physical abuse she suffered from her father: "because I was stubborn he says, the belt was a mercy, if I'd used my hands I would have broken your bones."
Although written entirely in verse, Blue Suburbia is a page-turner that traces the history of this talented, haunted, and painfully honest author. She reflects on the physical and mental abuse of her childhood, her rebellious spirit in adolescence, her desperation to find true love, and her need for expression. We follow her from college ("Life Lessons") to her first job in publishing ("The Test"), from an unwanted pregnancy ("Pregnant") to raising a family ("Lies We Tell Our Children"), from the edge of madness ("Endurance") to the final acceptance of the flawed individuals that created her ("Moon Over New York").
Intimate and fast moving, Albanese has cupped her hand around the reader's ear and whispered the secrets of herworld into this breathtaking memoir.
- Did you enjoy reading this memoir? Were you attracted to, or put off by, the format? Do you think it is important to read this book cover to cover, or could you pick it up at intervals and skip around? Would it lose it meaning or overall impact?
- Laurie's father abused her as a child. By the end of the book, has she forgiven him? Have you?
- What do you think happened to Laurie in "219 Maple Street? Are there other poems reflect on that incident?
- The author tells us about the "jailhouse right across from my school." What significance does this have for her family? Do you think this had a traumatic effect on them?
- In "Second Thing," what do you think Laurie is referring to with "forty pounds of flesh"?
- As a child, Laurie seemed unable to win her mother's love. Before her mother dies, is this issue resolved for Laurie? If so, when? Do you have sympathy for her mother?
- Who is Laurie's literary hero? Do you think it was important to her to identify with someone in that way?
- In "I Wish," the author lies to the reader. Explain.
- Who do you think "I Hid" is about?
- Since this memoir is written in poems, did you feel there were any gaps in her history? Do you think her past experiences are amplified or diminished?
- What are Laurie's fears? What does she always seem to be running from? Will she be able to confront her problems? Are people able to surmount their pasts or will they always be haunted by them?
- Who do you see as the bully in Laurie's family? Her father? Her mother? Herself?
- Discuss the author's sickness that she writes about in the section "Losing My Way"?
- How did the poem "Once" make you feel toward the author? Can you relate to her feelings?
- "Oh Boy" is about the author's son. What do you think he suffers from?
- The author struggles with her own happiness throughout the book. Review "Ordinary" and "The Sirens" and discuss whether you think the author is satisfied with her life. Do her expectations prevent her from being happy?
About the author
Laurie Lico Albanese has written a novel, Lynelle By the Sea, and her poetry has appeared in Mothering magazine, the literary magazine Emergency IV, and in the anthology Our Bundle of Joy. She has written for other publications, such as the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. She teaches creative writing to children in the Montclair, New Jersey, school system and was awarded a 1997-98 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in fiction.