Mary Cappello reads from Awkward: A Detour.

Incomodo. Goffo. Brutto. Spiacevole. Mary Cappello’s immigrant grandfather traced these Italian words in the letters he wrote to her but never sent, words that speak to the misunderstood state of awkwardness. Without awkwardness we would not know grace, stability, or balance. In her new book, Awkward: A Detour (Bellevue Literary Press, 2007), Cappello turns her penetrating gaze on this misunderstood condition, fearlessly exploring the ambiguous borders of identity. She mines her own life journeys—from Russia, to Italy, to the far corners of her heart and the depths of a literary or cinematic text—to decipher the powerful messages that awkwardness can transmit. Awkward detours to dwell in the incongruity lodged between stutterers and go-betweens, silence and bombast, precociousness and ignorance, Sicilian and Italian.

“At once comforting and startling, Awkward: A Detour is a new kind of memoir, each sentence more of a discovery than a reporting back. The fluent subtlety of Cappello’s adventurous meditation makes memory seem like something worth re-making, and not the casual currency it has become. It is a remarkable achievement.”

—Adam Phillips