Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir

Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir

by Laurie Albanese

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Overview

Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir by Laurie Albanese

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060565633
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/16/2004
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.49(d)

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

Blue Suburbia
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
your bones.

I love my father.

How can I tell the story of my life
without starting here?

Blue Suburbia
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

Prologue
Blue Suburbia, Aerial View3
Tales from Childhood
The Story of My Life7
219 Maple Street9
Five Best Ways to Maim a Man12
Sisters14
Second Thing16
Independence Day18
Just Shake, and Bake20
Sixth-Grade Infinity21
Catcher in the Rye23
I Wish24
Ignition
Ignition27
Motorcycle Matt29
Whiskey30
Suddenly Lisa32
Accident, Part I34
Accident, Part II35
Suicide37
Acceptance39
Five Words41
S.U.N.Y. College46
Life Lessons48
Manhattan Awakening
Job Interview53
The Test55
Prelude: In My Studio56
Real Men Don't Eat Quiche58
In the Museum of Modern Art60
Looking for Love
Nine Ways to Midnight65
Married Man67
Pregnant68
Hands70
Nick72
I Hid74
Leaving76
Embers77
A New Life
Solitaire Diamond83
Housekeeping85
The Next Generation86
Planting Bulbs88
Due Date90
We91
Dancing Baby92
Grandma93
Summer94
Minding My Own Business95
Man Enough96
Grief
Good-bye101
Housewife103
Multiplying105
Lives Collide106
"Good Night, Mom"108
How You Mourn a Mother110
When She Comes to Me111
Mirror112
Green Sleeves115
Losing My Way
My Road Not Taken119
Back East121
Fifteen-Year Cicadas122
Fight or Flee124
Six Months Later--126
Panic128
Endurance130
On the Couch132
The Doctor Helps Me See134
Out of the Blue
What Saved Me?139
Working Again142
The Fine Edge144
Sunday Afternoon146
Full Circle
Once151
The Woman Sets the Tone153
If I Didn't Have Children156
Cinderella158
Growing Pains
Growing Pains163
Oh Boy165
Jack Tries So Hard167
Please, Let Me In168
Lies We Tell Our Children171
Regrets173
Still, Joy
At the Dining Room Table177
Eye of the Self179
Dear Nick182
Thinking184
At Home185
Stolen Beauty187
Teaching Schoolchildren to Write About Snow189
Friends.com192
Ordinary193
Fate
The Sirens199
Hurry201
Epilogue
Moon over New York205
Author's Note207
Acknowledgments209

Reading Group Guide

Introduction

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.

Discussion Questions

  1. 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?

  2. Laurie's father abused her as a child. By the end of the book, has she forgiven him? Have you?

  3. What do you think happened to Laurie in "219 Maple Street? Are there other poems reflect on that incident?

  4. 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?

  5. In "Second Thing," what do you think Laurie is referring to with "forty pounds of flesh"?

  6. 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?

  7. Who is Laurie's literary hero? Do you think it was important to her to identify with someone in that way?

  8. In "I Wish," the author lies to the reader. Explain.

  9. Who do you think "I Hid" is about?

  10. 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?

  11. 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?

  12. Who do you see as the bully in Laurie's family? Her father? Her mother? Herself?

  13. Discuss the author's sickness that she writes about in the section "Losing My Way"?

  14. How did the poem "Once" make you feel toward the author? Can you relate to her feelings?

  15. "Oh Boy" is about the author's son. What do you think he suffers from?

  16. 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.

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