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.


Notable New Englanders: Marianne Leone

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


43 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

    • How might I contact you in regards to requesting a book endorsement? Your beautiful book JESSE felt eerily close to reliving our son’s life and death. I felt as if I was with a fellow inclusion warrior from the past. If you’re interested in contacting me, I can be reached at drapersmeadow4@gmail.com.
      Thank you for your time and for the gift of Jesse and his story.
      Karen Draper


  2. Meeting you and Chris at UMass Lowell ,
    Although brief, it impacted my understanding, knowing that I wasn’t alone.

    Being able to relate Jesse, born premature, having cerebral palsy, seizures and Grade 4 Intraventricular hemmorage,

    leaves me with a sad sweetness in my heart.

    I wish I could have met Jesse there as well. We would’ve had a lot to talk about.


  3. Hi Marianne. I was so moved by your article in the Globe last week. My husband & I started a special needs soccer program 6 years ago on the North Shore so it hit close to home. We expect to have 100+ players this fall (we started with 15 in 2011); we give them all uniforms, balls, one-one volunteer partners for the entire season, and trophies at the end. There are so many incredible stories coming out of the experience for everyone – players, families, volunteers. I’m writing because my dream for the past two years has been to make a video to share the inspiring stories of the players and let others see that despite differences we’re all pretty similar. If you have any interest in brainstorming with me, I’d love it. Thx
    *The website is new and embarrassingly green – I’m good at working with our players and organizing, not so much on the tech side of things : )


  4. 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


  5. 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.


  6. 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.


  7. Hello Marianne. My name is Michael Tocci, and my grandfather, Giovanni emigrated from San Donato Val di Comino to Nonantum in 1907, and started a construction business that is now in its 4th generation. He and my grandmother, Virginia DiGregorio, raised 14 children at 127 Linwood Avenue, where I also started life almost 64 years ago (baptized at Our Lady, Help of Christians). My Aunt Esther Marchioni still lives at the Linwood Avenue house, while about a dozen of my cousins live within a 1/2 mile radius. My father (who passed 2 years ago, just shy of 93 years old) often said that if “If someone lives in the Lake, they’re related to you…” since back in the old country, in the little village of San Donato, one doesn’t have to go very far back the family tree to find common ancestry. Not too long ago, my cousin Joe Lacroix was Newton’s Fire Chief, while my other cousin, Matt Cummings was the Police Chief. We just held our 39th annual Tocci Christmas Party at Post 440, on California Street. Anyways, I came across you 2006 Boston Globe article, and really appreciated it – any reminisces of earlier days in the Lake always take precedence in my attention – next paycheck I’m going to have my wife order your book… Hope your Christmas is full and joyous. Ciao.


    • Hi Michael! Thank you so much for your family history. What’s interesting is that I grew up with Ginny Marzilli, whose mother was Anna Tocci, and I believe my late uncle Joe dated one of the Tocci girls. The Tocci family lived only a few doors away from my family on Bridge Street and my aunt Eleanor grew up with the girls. You might know my sister Lindy who still lives in the house on Bridge Street. You may have known my mother Linda. I hope you get my book, Ma speaks up, which is available at Newtonville books. There is a lot about the Lake inside. It was great to hear from you, and I hope we our paths cross sometime. A wonderful Christmas to you and yours.


      • Marianne:

        Please forgive my delay in replying… things have been very hectic here, on many fronts.

        I visited with Ginny Gill (Marzilli) on a couple of occasions over the holidays, at our family’s Chrismas party at Post 440, and most recently, at her and Bob’s home in Brookline, where they host a small New Year’s Day soiree every year. I mentioned that we had corresponded and she recounted to me that you and your husband had actually attended her retirement party a while back. At that party, I also visited my Aunt Esther Marchioni (Tocci) and shared with her that we had written. I had asked her if she knew any Leone’s – and she said that she was “surrounded by them” in her neighborhood (she lives at the corner of Colonial Ave and Linwood Ave – in the very house I spent my first 4 years at). She met you at a local book-signing where she purchased your book. I have a couple of photos I’d like to share with you – one that was taken back in 1925 or so – with my grandparents and their children all lined up (Aunt Esther and Aunt Joanne had yet to be born), but it shows my Dad as a three year old, and Aunt Anna as a 4 year old. Another is of my Aunt Anna and Uncle Rocco at my wedding, and one more with all the aunts and uncles lined up at my wedding. I don’t know if I can do it here, but I’ll try. Best, Michael.


      • We were supposed to be at that New Year’s party and were both felled by the damn flu!! I know that my Aunt Elena was very close with the Tocci girls and knew Esther and Anna and all of them. They lived very close by. Sorry to have missed you! best, m


  8. Hi Marianne,

    I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your reading at the Durant-Kenrick house last week. It was genuinely delightful!

    I read your first book some years ago (in one sitting) and was incredibly moved. I picked it up in a Borders Books not knowing anything about it. But serendipitously, my mother attended Our Lady’s right around the time that you did. Many of the names you mentioned were so familiar!

    You had mentioned in your talk that you’re working on some shorts about attending Catholic school. I’m working on a project about the church and I would love to speak with about your experiences if you’d be interested.

    Feel free to DM me on twitter if you like or I can give you my email and perhaps we could set up a time to chat?


    You wrote “Complimenti alla mama!” in my book. Just to let you know who I am!



    • Hi Amanda! Please give me your email so we can chat further. The first of my stories, BRIDE OF CHRIST, was published in an Italian American Journal called OVUNQUE SIAMO==and it’s here on my writing page. The second story will be in the print issue of SOLSTICE MAGAZINE at the end of May. It’s titled SIN EATER!
      Thanks for writing. You can also pm me on my author FB page.


  9. Buon pomeriggio Mrs. Cooper, wow, so happy you have so many people from “ the lake” writing such nice things about you and your books. I’m not from that area but when I was a mbta bus driver I was lucky enough to drive a few trips around there. I thought it was a rich neighborhood, haha most of my routes were more where I grew up in Dorchester& Roxbury n downtown Boston, Columbia point it’s a messy falling apart Umass now but my Italian Nonna and my Dad always use to say some day there going to kick all us poor out and this will be waterfront luxury homes. I digress my apologies. When I first bought your Book it was a gift for my little sister to help inspire her to keep writing but I also bought one for myself and then your next one I was so excited to actually meet you and maybe get them signed. I don’t really get that whole deal but anywho my husband got ill and I couldn’t make it to the Kingston library. I read you would be in the old Newtonville book store use to be my fav when i was a bus driver and I still lived in dot. Unfortunately I moved a little over a decade ago to jones river, Isaac Alllerton old homestead, right here in Kingston and recently had a damn heart attack so know I’m gonna miss you again in Newton. So I thought hey screw it I don’t mind I do what everyone seems to do today and say thank you on the internet. We have seen you and your husband many times here n there, dump, etc. but never approached would have before Jessie passed but know it seems too intrusive to bother you both in public so, My husband Philip and I (Evie) would like to extend our condolences to you both and thank you for having the courage to share Jessie and your Mother with us and the world.
    If you ever want to see the view of the jones river from my side feel free to stop by and thanks for the tip on Patrizias rest. (Was in the book) we had our 46 wedding anniversary there. Never new it was there. I told them it was your book that brought us there, they were awesome. Ok, my apologies again I digress. Happens, 9 sibling, Phil has 11, we have one son he’s our world suffers from UC but I’ve already been babbling too long. Chin up, hang in there kiddo your doing great. Ps. Have u seen uma in imposters u would have rocked Lenny Cohen😎 peace, I’m out. Fond regards, Evie LeBlanc, 17 Spring St, Kingston, Ma
    txt me if u ever want to just sit out back n chill🌻617-233-8649 but if not that’s cool too we still think you & your cowboy rock!


    • Evie, thanks for your very kind letter. We are absolutely neighbors. I don’t have time to chill unfortunately, because I am now doing publicity for the MA book in paperback, but I will come to your house if you like and sign your book(s). Next week is nuts because we are also helping a documentarian friend, Dan Habib, with publicity for his film about three disabled adults. Chris did the narration for this film. Thanks so much for your #. I will be happy to text you and if you are home I will drop by! Hope you get stronger and feel better. best, Marianne


      • Omg had my son explain what a blog is, feel like a dope. Thought it was u private thing. So sorry, please not necessary but thank u so much for offering. Have a great summer don’t forget to stop n smell the roses🌻😎


      • OMG, my son just explained a blog is not private! Feel like such a dope. So sorry, thank U for u generous offer, but I could never impose. U r busy educating the world with u cowboy😉 but
        stop n smell the roses too. Regards, Evie


      • I’m still not sure how this works or if u received my apologies. Just in case u didn’t Thought it was only read by u. Then u posted whatever u wanted. Way to much info,, so sorry. Thank you again for the generous offer. Embarrassed Evie


  10. Hello Jessie’s mom, Ms. Leone, and Mrs. Cooper,

    I finished Jessie yesterday. Took me 2 1/2 days. On Wednesday, my younger daughter, Eliza, was home sick and we spent most of the day rocking in the rocking chair. She has mild CP, microcephaly and developmental delays. She is a currently non-verbal, curious, joyful and stubborn 11-year-old girl. Trying to find FAPE for her is the ongoing challenge of my life.

    I was reading Jessie while she slept and switching to her books when she woke up. Several hours in, I couldn’t take reading The Very Quiet Cricket anymore (apologies to Eric Carle) and just read her your book.

    It was a good day.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful young man’s life and words. I applaud your fierce loving mother-warrior heart and I learned a lot.

    Thank you for championing Intelligent Lives. I hope to see it soon.

    With gratitude,
    Rebecca Davis


    • Dear Rebecca–well, the whirlwind that is my life is just slowing down enough for me to read this and I so appreciate what you wrote. Thank you! Your letter brought me back to those days of caring for my beloved Jess. Thanks again for that, and I’m so glad you liked the book. xom


      • Evie, I apologize for this looooong delay–have been crazy busy and this is the first chance I have gotten back to my letters on the blog! This is shamefully neglected and I am sorry! I wish I were more diligent about writing on this site but life intrudes and going to readings, etc etc!! No worries = I appreciate that you wrote me. best,m


  11. I thought u would get a kick out of my GrandMother, Parents and older siblings having a good laugh. When I mentioned Newton and how It looked like a rich town all those years ago when I was just a naive new bus driver. They let me know Dorchester wasn’t the only blue collar town in the world. I’m still pretty naive about a lot of things. Haha, keep it fun. Evie


  12. My daughter, Emily, is a Speech Therapist who works for the Long Beach school district in California as an assistive technology specialist . Their district just had a showing of the film “Intelligent Lives” which featured your son, Jesse. Emily is an advocate for children who are physically challenged and uses technology to give them a voice.
    They are currently holding a “hackathon” and adapting toys so children with physical challenges can use them. Adaptive toys are too expensive for their community but with donations and volunteers they are able to create their own versions to gift to their students.
    Their facebook page is lbusdtoys4All.


    • thanks so much for this information, Elizabeth. Our son’s speech therapist really opened his world for him and enabled him to use a computer to be fully included at school. He was an honor roll student who wrote poetry.


  13. Hi Maryianne, There is so much to remember about your mom and dad. Our dads were great friends – two Jerrys – and moms as well. Unfortunately mine passed away at a very young age (23). Because of her passing my dad was (sort of) forced to take me along with him, especially on weekends. There I was, a four or five year old, spending an awful lot of time hiding under the tables at your dad’s bar or going to your house to watch your dad and his friends play bocce, while ‘Linda’ was cooking in the kitchen. I have such warm and happy memories of your mom and dad and now that I’ve seen your picture on a book cover it’s almost like seeing your mom again. Thanks to your family for giving me back some of my most precious memories. Be Safe during this sad time on earth. Our parents survived so much more; I have to believe the same for us.


    • Dear Sandra: I apologize for the delay in answering your very sweet note. I am so touched that you remember my mother and father! I am finally getting back to my website–I was finishing a new book which is about rescue dogs and mutual healing! I hope you are doing well in this fraught time. Thanks again for writing! xoMarianne


  14. Dear Mrs. Leone Cooper,
    I was so moved by the film Intelligent Lives and it led me to Ma Speaks Up and to this website. What a gift! Your writing is yet another expression of your family’s creative brilliance, on screens and on pages. Hearing about Jesse’s poetry makes it clear how much he and you were alike. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. While reading and then listening to the book I hope you find time to adapt some version of your life into a screenplay. Your journey is captivating, your relationships full of beauty and drama and your words so vivid – hearing your voice as your Ma in the audio book brought her to life. I can only imagine how much it would connect visually. Can’t wait to read Knowing Jesse next. Keep up the amazing work!


    • Dear Scott: Thank you so much for your kind words about my books and the doc Intelligent Lives, which my husband narrated and we both exec produced. Regarding a film–it’s interesting that you mention that–I did write a screenplay, but not about our lives–it was about my mentor, Mary Somoza, who has twin daughters with severe cp and changed education in NYC. Both girls graduated from NYC schools and were awarded their diplomas by President Clinton. Anastasia, who is verbal, spoke before 30k people at the DNC in support of Hillary’s nomination. Anastasia graduated pre-law from Georgetown and got her master’s from London School of Economics. Alba, nonverbal, is an artist who sells her art and teaches it to young people with disabilities. HBO bought the script but then dropped it. Now Pete Farrelly wants to direct it, so….we shall see! Thanks for asking about film. Best, Marianne


    • Dear Scott:

      so sorry for the delay in answering your very kind response to my books. I have written a screenplay based on the story of Mary Somoza and her twins, both of whom have severe cerebral palsy. Mary was my mentor when Jesse was small and during our fight for his inclusion in public school after our move to MA. HBO bought, then dropped the screenplay, but now Pete Farrelly wants to direct and it is slated for spring 2023. Mary is a fierce social justice warrior mother and both girls received their diplomas from President Clinton after a protracted battle with the NYC school system. Anastasia, who is verbal, graduated from Georgetown pre-law and then got her master’s at the London School of Economics. She spoke at the DNC in front of 30k people during Hilary’s run in 2016. Alba, Anastasia’s twin, is an artist and her work sells to both private and corporate interests. She teaches art to kids with CP. Thanks again for your interest in my work! And happy new year 2022, may it be better for all of us…


      • Happy new year to you too! Wow- that is another special story to tell and I would imagine that so many of your personal emotions and challenges overlapped as you adapted it. I wish you and Pete Farrelly the best of luck with the journey to the screen, I’ll be rooting for it to get into production and eagerly await seeing it when it is done! Much appreciated,


  15. Dear Mrs. Leone Cooper,
    if you don’t mind, firstly I’d like to tell you my little story. I’m in my 30s, married, a little too emotional and empathetic man with no children (we can’t for health reasons and my wife lives in a different world, you know, out of reality). In my country we can’t get your books and it’s too expensive to buy it straight from USA, so I collected “Jesse: A Mother’s Story” around all the internet from little pieces (not all unfortunately). But I’d like to thank you for emotions and feelings that your story can give not just to mothers and couples who fought the same fight that you were. Your story made a desperate man to me believe. To be honest, I cried reading about love that you show to you husband even through giving all of yourself to your son. Thank you. Thanks for your honesty, thanks for your soul. Thanks for the book.


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