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You’re going to want to read David Cicilline’s new book

Cover of "House on Fire" by Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline.TWELVE BOOKS

It’s book day for US Representative David Cicilline.

The congressman’s first book, “House on Fire,” hits newsstands today (you should buy it at Book on the Square, but you can purchase it on Amazon, too). It’s a partial memoir that explores the current state of politics in America, his role as manager during the second impeachment of Donald Trump, and most interestingly, his rise up the legal and political ladder in Rhode Island.

You’ll have to dig past some of the predictable “Democrats good, Republicans bad”-speak throughout, but it’s a thoughtful and occasionally revealing book that should have broader appeal. Plus, there’s plenty of organized crime and Buddy Cianci to go with the whole fighting for democracy thing.


Here are five of the most interesting parts of the book.

The “M” word

For those who love Rhode Island politics, you can skip ahead to the second (of three) sections of the book, where Cicilline writes about his younger days. (Spoiler: at one point, he considered becoming an actor.)

The most fascinating passages are when he writes about his father, a legendary defense attorney who happened to represent New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca. Cicilline doesn’t deny the existence of organized crime led by Italian-Americans, but he writes, “Because my father knew the full truth about the M word, it wasn’t used in our home, and I don’t use it to this day.”

He goes on to tell a remarkable story about stolen La-Z-Boy recliners and the government’s overreach when prosecutors charged his father with conspiracy to commit perjury (he was acquitted).

A split with the speaker

You don’t normally hear about any friction between Cicilline and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but there was during impeachment discussions. The congressman makes it clear that he disagreed with the decision to focus solely on the Ukraine incident during President Trump’s first impeachment, which he dubs “the playing-nice impeachment.”


He explains that Pelosi did not appreciate the “rebels” on her leadership team who pushed for an impeachment inquiry following the release of Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. “She might forgive those who break ranks, but she wouldn’t forget.”

During the second “less nice impeachment,” where Cicilline played multiple vital roles (including drafting the article accusing Trump of incitement of insurrection and serving as a manager during the Senate trial), he breaks a little news by claiming that he heard Pelosi actually stopped US Representative Adam Schiff from drafting a competing impeachment article.

Settling the score with Cianci

During his second term as mayor of Providence and first couple of terms in Congress, Cicilline rarely addressed the near-daily personal attacks he faced from his arch nemesis Buddy Cianci, the former mayor who had become a radio host. But Cianci has been dead for more than six years, and Cicilline devotes plenty of space to tell us how he really felt about his predecessor in City Hall. He credits Cianci with being a charismatic leader, but also calls him “our little kleptocrat dictator.”

”I found Mayor Cianci a dangerous creature, and I hated the fact that whenever people anywhere talked about our city, his name came up,” Cicilline writes.

Fighting the firefighters

While Cicilline is now treated as a hero by most public employee unions, he had a years-long battle with Providence’s firefighters that finds its way into the book. He writes that their protests “were generally annoying and often disruptive. In 2007 I couldn’t even be included on a list of co-chairs of Hillary Clinton’s campaign because Democrats back unions.” He doesn’t write that Joe Biden skipped a trip to Providence when he was vice president because he wouldn’t cross a picket line.


Yes, I’m “openly” gay

Cicilline writes about the time he clashed with an unnamed Providence Journal editor for being unwilling to allow then-columnist Charlie Bakst to include that Cicilline is gay in one of his columns. “It was probably the first time anyone, anywhere, had called a media gatekeeper and asked, ‘Why aren’t you publishing the fact that I’m gay?’” Cicilline writes.

In the end, the column ran with a matter-of-fact reference to him being gay, and Cicilline explains that “nothing noteworthy happened.” He writes that his family was confused about why he felt the need to call them to let them know the column was running. “They loved me, they said. That was it.”

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.