Under the Rose
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FLAVIA ALAYA was the founding director of the School of Intercultural Studies at Ramapo College in New Jersey and taught at New York University and Hunter College, CUNY. She is the author of many scholarly works. She has held Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships. She is active in community and historic preservation organizations.

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Under the Rose

A Confession
Flavia Alaya

Beneath its "scandalous" surface, Flavia Alaya's life story goes to the heart of women's struggles for independence, self-definition, and sexual agency. When she first met Father Harry Browne, Alaya was a vibrant but sheltered young woman on a Fulbright scholarship in Italy. When the attraction that began in a cafe in Perugia became too compelling to resist, they embarked upon a love affair that violated the deepest taboos of society, the Church, and her Italian American family, yet endured for over two decades, through years of shared dedication to social activism and through the birth of three children.

"Alaya, writer, scholar, and social activist, writes a hauntingly beautiful memoir of her sub-rosa relationship with Harry Browne."


"Flavia Alaya has written a memoir with a rare elegiac style. She works the supreme magic of combining a deeply personal story whilst narrating a fascinating history of a moribund Church. Deeply spiritual with love and tragedy, but finally, a woman triumphant."

—Malachy McCourt, author of A Monk Swimming: A Memoir

"Here is a timeless passion, recalled with a historian's precision. But it is also a modern political document. Because these lovers took the definitions with which their times tried to imprison them—definitions of woman, of priest, of powerlessness—and transformed them, first in their own lives, and then out in the world."

—Nuala O'Faolain, author of Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman

"Flavia Alaya's richly textured story kept me up half the night, riveted by its dauntless passion and fierce insight. For those of us who are Italian Americans and sometime Catholics, Alaya's tale will have special power in its unraveling of mysteries and sanctities that shaped our lives. But her headlong rush toward remembrance of things past will have extraordinary resonance, too, for all who have lived, loved, lost—and won."

—Sandra M. Gilbert, author of Ghost Volcano, co-author of The Madwoman in the Attic

"Flavia Alaya writes beautifully. She brings moments of intense feeling vividly to life. And without belaboring it, she moves beyond a patriarchal morality that cast her as a mala femina into a humane and loving view of life."

—Marilyn French, author of The Women's Room and Our Father: A Novel