cover image Not for Nothing: Glimpses into a Jersey Girlhood

Not for Nothing: Glimpses into a Jersey Girlhood

Kathy Curto. Bordighera, $16 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-59954-129-7

In her tender and evocative debut memoir, Curto, who teaches creative writing at Montclair State University, presents “glimpses of time, reimagined.” These anecdotes, strung together to recreate her New Jersey childhood and adolescence in the 1970s and ’80s, draw the reader into the world of a hardworking Italian-American family. The youngest of four children, Curto is often silenced by her parents. Her father, who runs a Texaco gas station, is moody and sometimes volatile; her mother argues with him, and for a time they separate and she works at a Laundromat; Curto’s older brother, meanwhile, becomes addicted to an assortment of drugs, causing turmoil in the family. The author beautifully recreates the sensations of childhood: touching the soft skin on her mother’s upper arm, catching the scent of her father’s cologne mixed with gasoline and grease, and experiencing her first kiss (“The music stops. He kisses me but misses my mouth. Grape soda on my chin”). As she gets older, she becomes increasingly aware of her family’s failings: the outside office at the gas station is neat and clean, she observes, but the inside office, like her family, is stained with ashes, sauce, coffee, and, “if you look closer: blood, sweat, and tears.” This slim, quiet story of girlhood is a gem; Curto creates a vivid picture of the confusion and magic of childhood. (Dec.)