I try not to think about it—the spring the junior dropped out of school after wearing a wire so the police could cuff Mr. Cawley—led him out of the high school down the long beige corridor of B-Hall past the AP History class where I sat with my textbook open to some European War, trying not to think about my confusion when I stood, the May before, in Mr. Cawley’s classroom, as he held my book report on In Search of History.
Kathy Curto’s memoir, Not for Nothing: Glimpses Into A Jersey Girlhood, is a dynamic and bittersweet retelling of the author’s childhood in which she seeks to understand and reconcile the inner workings of her family while lifting the veil of the American dream. The book, Curto’s first, is told through a series of 52 loosely-connected humorous and poignant vignettes. It takes a close look at her Italian-American family, from behind closed doors as well as in the eyes of the southern New Jersey community around them.
Review: Not For Nothing: Glimpses Into a Jersey Girlhood by Kathy Curto
for my grandparents, who did not teach me
how to farm, and yet they scattered these seeds:
How a dunk into scalding water slips
the skin from a peach, leaves it unfuzzed, slick
for canning. How the trick to shucking corn
is one clean jerk. How jars of beet brine turn
eggs to amethysts that stain my fingers,
my lips. They left me to play in cellars
stocked with preserves and jam, in rows of trees
that released chestnut burrs for my bare feet
to find. What would they think of my pea shoots
left unlatticed, free to tendril one noose
after another around other plants,
my slapdash harvest, larder left to chance?
In the Garden of Invasive Species, I Offer Gratitude
Over and over, I dig thin flower stems into the earth, as if mending a hole in an old shirt. The earth buckles at my persistence. I imagine the worms, deep in the ground, ducking each stem in slow, pink frenzy. The flowers are from Safeway along Route 18—dip-dyed daisy petals in blue and pink food coloring. It’s strange to return these gaudy flowers back to the soil. But they were the only ones we could find in the store that weren’t browning at the edges. If you’re going to bring flowers for the dead, they better not be dead themselves.