Skip Navigation

Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Breaking the Curse

A Memoir of Trauma, Healing, and Italian Witchcraft

by Alex DiFrancesco

Book cover for Breaking the Curse
Book cover for Breaking the Curse

A tour de force of narrative nonfiction, a reimagining of the self-help genre, and a brave memoir about mystical forces, trauma, trans life, and how we must heal ourselves to survive.

In Breaking the Curse, Alex DiFrancesco takes their own crushing experiences of assault, addiction, and transphobic violence as the starting point for a journey to self-reclamation. Reeling in the aftermath of a rape that played out as painfully in public as in private, DiFrancesco begins to pursue spirituality in earnest, searching for an ancestral connection to magic as a form of protection and pathway to transformation. Propelled by a knowledge of the spiritual role of the transgender person in society, Alex winds through Cleveland and Brooklyn and Philly—from rehab and pagan AA meetings and friends’ spare mattresses to tarot readers and books about Italian witchcraft to daily ritual, prayer, altar-making, and folk tradition. In so doing, they begin to not only piece together a way to heal but also call into existence a life that finally feels worth living.

Breaking the Curse weaves spells, blasphemous novenas, and personal memories to imagine a new memoir form. Speaking about trauma does not always take its power away, DiFrancesco reminds us, but one can write their truth so that the hurt no longer fills the whole horizon.

Book cover for Breaking the Curse
Book cover for Breaking the Curse

Buying options

“A curse: a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power. DiFrancesco’s memoir, Breaking the Curse, invokes power and summons the occult’s beauty as touchstones for the reader. It is its own spell, its own grimoire, its own invocation: a séance for souls whose voices are not remembered, not cared for, not HEARD. “In another universe,” DiFrancesco chants—let this be a manifestation for those in communities who need reassurance that their lives and bodies exist and matter, and let DiFrancesco’s words resound as a powerful promise that despite, despite, despite; resilience exists and it is alive within these pages.”

“I see this world as few others do," writes Alex DiFrancesco, and thank goodness for that. In their memoir, Breaking the Curse, DiFrancesco offers readers a mesmerizing vision of this world and the workings of trauma, gender identity and magic within it. A spell-binding work.”

“A phenomenal memoir that excavates deep into emotions, Alex DiFrancesco’s Breaking the Curse is a testament to resilience about belonging and identity. DiFrancesco writes with raw honesty about their struggles and trauma, shame, and violence as well as recovery and hope. There is a whole life assembled in every chapter than some live in a lifetime. At once heartbreaking and shaking with life, Breaking the Curse is brave, powerful, shining a light out of the darkness in a way few books dare to be.”

“In an act of magic and divine intention, DiFrancesco exquisitely recounts the nonlinear process of an extraordinary feat of healing. With a roar of pain that demands acknowledgement, they rise above seemingly insurmountable trauma, bypassing the heart-crushing constraints of community and familial wounds to find ancestral healing, forgiveness, and sacred purpose. Their remarkable capacity to summon truth, self-discovery, and divine connection as an idiosyncratic, independent act of will serves as a powerful source of inspiration for all who have ever felt disconnected from the fundamental human desires we all share: community, family, safety, and spirituality.”

Breaking the Curse takes us to the edge and keeps us there in this beautifully crafted memoir. A detailed and intimate journey that takes us through the misogynistic and transphobic realities women and nonbinary people face when they stand up to power, the system, and their rapists. I felt like I needed to light cedar and sage to honor the words, the story, and the incredible path toward healing. Alex takes us to a deeper place I can only describe as a soul’s passage, recovering from male violence, the culture that protects it, and the wisdom of women and trans people who have known better for centuries. Sometimes magic is needed to heal where mortals fail.”

“Between the people who hurt us and the people we hurt along the way, between falls and recoveries, we have to build our own practices for finding peace. In this generous and magical book on living with trauma—part memoir, part grimoire—Alex DiFrancesco serves as an unflinching guide to that work.”

“Alex DiFracesco's searing account of misdiagnosed trauma, their spiritual trials through harmful systems (family, health, and otherwise), and their emergence emulates post-traumatic growth. Their writing is hauntingly authentic and their metaphors make lasting imprints. Breaking the Curse helps you believe that healing can be both magical and messy, where trauma chooses a path for them and then they manage to forge one with the guidance of their ancestors. It is both profoundly hopeful and menacingly raw.”

Breaking the Curse by Alex DiFrancesco is the account of the author’s descent into their personal circles of hell. Visceral, and relentlessly grim, where Death is their ever-present companion prepared to offer sweet release, but DiFrancesco never loosens their grip on Hope. A triumph of perseverance over adversity, Life over Death. For anyone who has ever felt hopeless, this book is for you. Haunting.”

“With Breaking the Curse, writer and editor Alex DiFrancesco ups the ante on memoirs. In their candid and irreverent voice, DiFrancesco calls on readers to struggle along with them from rape and addiction through tarot, magic and spirituality to security, hope and, ultimately, healing.”

“Alex DiFrancesco is another writer whose work spans styles and formats; this book sees them returning to nonfiction after two forays into speculative and fantastical fiction. . . .Thought-provoking and compelling.”

Alex DiFrancesco

Alex DiFrancesco is a multi-genre writer and transmasc person (they/them) who is the author of Transmutation, All City, and Psychopomps. Their work has appeared in New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Tin House, Pacific Standard, Eater, Brevity, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and more. They are the recipient of grants and fellowships from PEN America, Sundress Academy for the Arts, and the winner of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award for 2022. Their novel All City was the first awards finalist by a transgender author in over 80 years of the Ohioana Book Awards. They formerly served as an assistant editor for Sundress Publications in Tennessee, and currently edit LGBTQIA+ non-fiction for Jessica Kingsley Publishers. DiFrancesco lives in Philadelphia and is the human companion of a middle-aged, ill-mannered Westie named Roxy Music, Dog of Doom.