Ma Speaks Up

  • by Marianne Leone
  • Narrated by Marianne Leone
  • 5 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The acclaimed actress and author of Jesse: A Mother's Story tells the story of her outspoken, frequently outrageous Italian immigrant mother.
Marianne Leone's Ma is in many senses a larger-than-life character, one who might be capable, even from the afterlife, of shattering expectations. Born on a farm in Italy, Linda finds her way to the United States under dark circumstances, having escaped a forced marriage to a much older man, and marries a good Italian boy. She never has full command of English, especially when questioned by authorities, and when she is suddenly widowed with three young children, she has few options. To her daughter's horror and misery, she becomes the school lunch lady.
Ma Speaks Up is a record of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, with the wrong family, in the wrong religion. Though Marianne's girlhood is flooded with shame, it's equally packed with adventure, love, great cooking, and, above all, humor. The extremely premature birth of Marianne's beloved son, Jesse, bonds mother and daughter in ways she couldn't have imagined. The stories she tells will speak to anyone who has struggled with outsider status in any form and, of course, to mothers and their blemished, cherished girls.

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What the Critics Say

"I can think of few writers, alive or dead, who can make us laugh out loud in one sentence only to wipe the tears off our cheeks in the next. Marianne Leone achieves this brilliantly in this enduring love song to her Italian mother, illuminating themes as wide ranging as social class, immigrant life, the Catholic Church, the agony of adolescence, marital and maternal and paternal love, and far more. And like all of the best memoirs, Ma Speaks Up carries us back to the fragmented and sometimes elusive beauty of our own lives. This is an exquisitely rendered book by an immensely gifted writer, and I cannot recommend it highly enough." (Andre Dubus III)
"In this entertaining and moving memoir, Marianne Leone has crafted an indelible portrait of her immigrant mother. Like her daughter, Ma is a formidable person - salty, tough-minded, funny, and full of unexpected wisdom." (Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Author's reading is incredible!

Would you consider the audio edition of Ma Speaks Up to be better than the print version?

Hearing the story read by Marianne Leone--an actress as well as an incredible writer--added to my experience.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Ma! Hearing her expressions brought her to life.


Which scene was your favorite?

When Ma comments on Marianne's appearance, complimenting her by saying she 'looks like a prostitute."


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The relationship between Ma and Marianne's son, Jesse, when she holds him.


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- Voracious Reader "Voracious Reader"

Ma Speaks Up

What a wonderful story and a plus to hear it read by "MA's" daughter. A great one to listen too.
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- Judith E. Shea

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-25-2017
  • Publisher: Beacon Press