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What Are You Reading? Lianne Moccia Has Spent a Life in Libraries, From a Solitary Child to a Social Grown-Up

  • Lianne Moccia, of Lebanon, N.H., talks with Chuck McAndrew, an IT Librarian, while checking out books at the Lebanon Public Library in Lebanon on April 3, 2018. Moccia was on the library board of trustees for 17 years. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Carly Geraci

  • Lianne Moccia, of Lebanon, N.H., left, talks with Deputy Director Amy Lappin, after checking out books at the Lebanon Public Library in Lebanon on April 3, 2018. Moccia acquires most of what she reads from the library. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/5/2018 10:00:03 PM
Modified: 4/6/2018 9:47:12 AM

Someone could write a book about Lebanon resident Lianne Moccia’s life to date.

Moccia, perhaps, could write one herself, between her time protesting the war in Vietnam and the more than 35 years she’s traveled around the Twin States for her work as a sign-language interpreter.

“People say that to me all the time,” Moccia said during a conversation at Lucky’s Coffee Garage in downtown Lebanon last week. “If not a memoir, I’m sure there is a novel in there somewhere, but I don’t do a whole lot of writing.”

Rather, Moccia prefers to spend her free time reading other people’s stories, a habit that goes back to her childhood in Revere, Mass., where, as a first-grader at a Catholic school, she discovered the public library in her neighborhood. Lately, she’s been reading National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward’s new novel Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Make that reading and listening to the audiobook of three voice actors reading Ward’s saga of a Southern black family fighting to stay together against internal and societal forces. Audiobooks have become a staple of her daily drives of up to 150 miles round-trip to the weddings, funerals, medical appointments, real-estate closings, workplace training sessions and other interactions where she interprets for deaf clients.

“The recordings really help me keep up,” Moccia said. “I’m used to listening carefully in my work. My brain is trained to be listening.”

Sing, Unburied, Sing was a selection of her book group, made up mostly of what she describes as “women who had kids in the Lebanon schools. The members recently also tackled The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s autobiography Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, and Elizabeth Strout’s novel Anything Is Possible, which follows the intersecting lives and struggles of residents of a small town in Illinois.

“Growing up, reading was very solitary to me,” Moccia said. “I had to learn how to share it. Now, it’s great to hear other perspectives on what I’m reading.”

Reading was solitary for Moccia partly because it was an interest she discovered on her own.

“My parents didn’t read to me,” recalled Moccia, now in her late 60s. “They were hard-working people who didn’t have a lot of time. We didn’t have any books in the house to speak of. I found the library by myself.

“Reading opened big doors, to a big world.”

They opened slowly as Moccia approached adolescence. During a school assignment to write a book report about birth control, “the nun wanted us to find what the Pope would say about it,” Moccia recalled. “When I went to the library for a book on the subject, I wasn’t allowed to take it out because I wasn’t married.”

The doors opened wider at Fordham University, in Bronx, N.Y., where Moccia majored in philosophy.

“In those days, I was reading nonfiction like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Sisterhood Is Powerful,” feminist poet Robin Morgan’s 1970 compilation of writings by radical feminists, Moccia said. “For fiction, I was into the work of people like Doris Lessing and Marge Piercy.”

Even after dropping out of Fordham to protest the war, “I was reading all the time — probably more fiction than nonfiction, which is still kind of my pattern, my M.O,” Moccia said.

She doesn’t quite remember what she was reading during and in the months after May 1971, when she and 27 other, mostly Catholic antiwar activists were arrested on charges of conspiring to raid and destroy records at a draft board office. In 1973, they were acquitted, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s star witness testified that the bureau encouraged the plot to entrap the protesters.

“There have been several accounts written, and I am in some of them, but they tended to be more reflective of the experience of the men,” Moccia said. “Nobody has quite told it from the point of view of the women. But I’m not going to do it.”

Nor will Moccia write a memoir about her career interpreting with sign language.

“Most of the stories I have from my work are confidential,” she said. “I would have to tell the stories in generalities.”

Besides, there are so many books still to read — most of them from the Lebanon Public Library, where she’s had a card since the late 1970s. When she’s done with the Jesmyn Ward book, Moccia expects to take on stand-up comedian Lindy West’s memoir Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, and young adult novelist Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, which was inspired by the shooting of a young, unarmed black man by a transit cop in San Francisco in 2009.

“What I don’t pick up for the book club, I ask the kids in my life (younger sign-language clients as well as her grown son and daughter) what’s interesting,” Moccia said. “I’m also starting to go back to familiar books from long ago, by authors like George Eliot. I find things in those that I didn’t appreciate then.

“I’m a different person than when I was a young person.”

To recommend Upper Valley residents, from any walk of life and line of work, for an interview about what they’re reading, email David Corriveau at dcorriveau@vnews.com or call 603-727-3304.




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