I have told and written stories for as long as I can remember. They usually make people laugh, though later, they may realize how serious, even painful, some stories might be.
As a college teacher, writing and teaching writing are deep rhythms in my life. I am in awe at how writing enables my students, and me, to grow, to make sense of the paths we have chosen, will choose, or those we just find ourselves on.
Most of my creative writing has been about the rigid but confusing universe in which I grew up as an Irish and Italian Catholic girl in the exciting, though sometimes disconcerting, urban and intellectual atmosphere of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the ’60s. My first full-length novel—Dodging Satan: My Irish/Italian, Sometimes Awesome, but Mostly Creepy, Childhood—draws on this material.
A version of a chapter from Dodging Satan, “I Always Thought I Was on Good Terms with the Virgin Mary Even Though I Hadn’t Gotten Pregnant in High School,” won the 2009 Tiny Lights First Prize for a Personal Essay and a staged version of it was performed at the Petaluma Readers Theater in 2012. Other short pieces have appeared in various journals such as Witness, South Carolina Review, and Italian Americana, among others. I have frequently given readings of my work.
At Purchase College, SUNY, where I am Professor of Literature and Writing, I teach writing at all levels and Irish and Italian-American literature. My academic books include The Culture of Reading and the Teaching of English (Modern Language Association Mina Shaughnessy Award) and Reading Our Histories, Understanding Our Culture, among others. I’ve co-edited MLA volumes on Teaching Italian American Literature, Film, and Popular Culture and Teaching James Joyce’s Ulysses and written many essays on ways of teaching college students to love reading and writing.