I grew up seven miles outside of Boston, in the Lake, a small blue-collar enclave of a larger city, Newton. Lake dwellers were pretty evenly divided between Italian and Irish-Americans, with a soupcon of French-Canadians. There was no actual Lake in the Lake. The original had dried up and all that remained during my childhood was a green-slicked puddle on the site of a factory. All the Italians in the Lake had migrated from the same southern mountain village, San Donato Val di Comino. My mother and father were both Italian immigrants, but my mom was an outsider, from Sulmona, Abruzzo. My dad owned a small workingman’s bar, Leone’s Café. I went to Catholic school for twelve years. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a saint, a reporter and a cowboy. I didn’t become a saint, but I married a cowboy and sometimes I write for the Boston Globe. I’ve written a bunch of screenplays, and sold some of them, but I’m unproduced. I think it’s because none of them have explosions (but all of them have women in the lead roles). I was also lucky enough to play Joanne Moltisanti, Christopher’s mother, on HBO’s The Sopranos for four seasons. I live in a small town on the south shore of Massachusetts with my husband, Chris Cooper, and two rescue dogs, Lucky and Frenchy. KNOWING JESSE is about my son, whose luminous presence expanded and transformed everything else in my universe. I wrote the book to celebrate his life, to deal with his death, and to share him with others.


Reconnecting with Ma by Setting Her Story to the Page April 27, 2017/Beacon Broadside

Marianne Leone talks about her new memoir MA SPEAKS UP/Boston Globe

7 Questions an Interview with Marianne Leone / Solstice Literary Magazine

PRX Open Source with Christoper Lydon

A Conversation With Marianne Leone Cooper / Cowboys and Indians Magazine


11 thoughts on “About

  1. I’ve been catching up on sections of the Boston Globe and just read “The cake-tin effect” from August 23. It led me to look for you on-line, so I could write to thank you for that Opinion column and marvelous story. I, too, have a cake tin (aluminum, not stainless) but, being male, have never noticed any effect it had on anyone who might have seen me carrying it, usually loaded with a Bundt cake I’ve baked. I’ll have to be more observant the next time I have it out in public. I enjoyed reading your column. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marianne. after bonding with you over our light beams and life teachers… I will forever sing your praise..and this my dear is just another cast out there that leaves me.. in awe … and inspires me to continue to write! You are fabulous!! (not to mention we both attended Catholic school!) wha wha


  3. We have much in common. My parents came from a small hamlet in the Appenine mountains near Lucca. They immigtrated in 1928 to Boston and lived in Italian conclave sprinkled with irish and some African Americans. i could not speak English when I went to school, but we learn fast. Now I am an Italian medical interpreter. But my “Ma” and i did not always see eye to eye on personal things, albeit we shared the love of music and dancing.
    Catholic school for 12 years also, learned about the “birds and bees” from health class and other American girls. My first born was later diagnosed as
    developed delayed; my parents had never seen anything like it, but loved Mark. My husband I had not idea how to handle this beautiful child. Inlaws were no help. We had to fight along with other parents for transportation and classes. We bought an old school in Newton for these children-called
    The League School. We also had another son who has since graduated from Boston College and we finally had a daughter Paula who later died
    at the age of 15 from leukemia.
    I have followed your story of your son Jesse since you and Mr Cooper moved to Massachusetts.
    Thank you and God bless you. Yvonne


    • Yvonne, thank you so much for your email. That is so interesting about the League School–I never knew about it. Also very interesting is that you could not speak English when you first went to school. My Aunt Ellie grew up in an Italian-speaking household and I asked her how she learned and she said the very same thing–as a child you learn fast. I am so glad the book resonated with you. I hope you read JESSE–I am sure that, too, would resonate. The fact that you started a school leaves me in awe! My very best to you, Yvonne.


  4. Hi Marianne,

    I related so much to Ma Speaks Up: the long face, pixie haircut, experience with the Eucharist, Mom making Sunday gravy and not attending mass, and hearing her voice calling me from the afterlife. Just reading the words schifosa and malocchio brought back memories. I think we are kindred spirits.

    In fact, I’ve written about similar situations in my upcoming memoir. Jimmy and Me is the story about how I cared for my older brother who is intellectually disabled, and the impact he had on me growing up in the 1960s-70s and now.

    Thank you for the beautiful note you wrote on my copy of Knowing Jesse at the JFK library. I loved that story, too, and look forward to reading your next book.

    Con sinceri saluti,
    Joyce Poggi Hager

    P.S. My father and I were the only ones in our family who liked lentil soup. I loved making it for him when I was his caregiver in his final years, and hearing him “mm-mm” with satisfaction. My recipe includes small pieces of sausage. Delish.


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