I had the privilege of attending one of Annie Rachele Lanzillotto's events for her two new books: her memoir, L Is for Lion: An Italian Bronx Butch Freedom Memoir (SUNY Press, 2013), and her collection of poems, Schistsong (Bordighera Press, 2013) It was the most exciting literary event, complete with readings, performances, discussions, laughter, and camaraderie. If you have not attended one of Annie's events, then I urge you to do so, immediately.
Annie is a dear friend, a fellow writer, and a gay-Italian-American sister. We are members of the same ethnic and sexual minority communities, and this is what creates our special bond. I devote this blog to Annie and her brilliant work. I wish to support a writer-friend because I want to be that kind of writer. I have observed and experienced that most writers do not support other writers, and this needs to change.
I suggest that you enhance your life by reading Annie's work.
The following is a fabulous review of Annie's memoir, L Is Lion, by Steve Zeitlin:
You should not read Annie Lanzillotto's L Is for Lion: An Italian Bronx Butch Freedom Memoir just to learn how to catch a fly ball in oncoming traffic; or simply because it's the best tough-minded and deeply poet prose I can remember reading since Hemmingway. You should also not read it because it's the best depiction of a Bronx life since Kate Simon's Bronx Primitive. You should not read it because you're a New Yorker who wants to understand the impulse to freedom that defines the city, or to revel in a deeply sexual coming out story. You shouldn't read it just learn "how to cook a heart" from a butcher at the Arthur Avenue market. You should not read it because it's the most heart-rending depiction of an abusive father suffering from post traumatic stress after surviving Okinawa. Don't read it for the stories of a two-time cancer patient, the only one to survive her support group called Teenagers with Terminal Illness at Brown. Or to learn how to test the charge of a battery with the tip of your tongue. Set all that aside.
You need to read this book because it's the most powerful depiction I have ever read of how a human being can draw on her folk culture, her humor, and her poetic insight to pull life-affirming meaning out of the gutter like a lost spaldeen. Annie Lanzillotto draws on her Italian and her Bronx background to imbue every episode with meaning. The spaldeen of her childhood becomes a symbol for bouncing back. A lasagna left in the stove untouched after a family battle explodes is a symbol that, like even best glue, a tradition that holds the family together is a breakable bond.
Above all the tragedy and the nightmare of a family at war, I'll remember Annie Lanzillotto seeking to recreate GranmaRose's signature biscotti recipe after she died at 101. "I am doing this for my own communion with my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. To repeat with my hands, the circular motions on the rolling board that I saw GranmaRose make for years. My hands were engaged in a sacred act of remembering."
L Is for Lion is a luscious lasagna pulled from the hot stove that binds us together as human beings.