Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers Connects Fact to Fiction

In her latest project, Adriana Trigiani abandons her usual fictional world and pays tribute to the women who made her who she is -- a hardworking, family-oriented storyteller. In the non-fiction work Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, Trigiani shares both her wide-reaching love for her grandmothers and some of the pearls of wisdom they imparted upon her. The result is a touching part-memoir, part-family history that communicates the immense amount of respect Trigiani has for the two most important women in her life.

Paternal grandmother Viola Trigiani and maternal grandmother Lucy Bonicelli disciplined Adriana in ways her younger self sometimes felt unfair; however, she is now able to fully understand the love that drove those hard-learned lessons. In the book, Adriana recalls that Viola once refused to allow her to walk by her side in a local festival parade. Those in the front with her grandmother were lifelong members of the Ladies' Sodality, and Adriana had not, at her young age, earned a place with those who had "done the work" (170). Adriana now looks back on that memory with fondness and with the knowledge that Viola was "teach[ing her] that every stage of life, and every stage of commitment, has its compensation" (170).

Devotees of Trigiani's novels will recognize traits and historical information from her grandmothers that have been peppered into her fictional characters and plots. Her Italian roots come through loudly and clearly in the Big Stone Gap series, in which main character Ave Maria connects with her Italian family members. Lucia, Lucia's title character is named for Lucia "Lucy" Bonicelli (who Trigian's daughter is also named for); she also works as a seamstress, as did the actual Lucy. Trigiani's Valentine series is also steeped in family history, with the novel's family owning a shoe store similar to grandmother Lucy's husband. Nella Castelluca in The Queen of the Big Time spends her days in a garment factory very similar to the blouse factory Viola Trigiani and her husband ran for more than twenty years. And of course, Trigiani's YA novel Viola in Reel Life introduces adolescent Viola, named for Viola Trigiani.

Lovers of Trigiani's fiction will delight in the stories gleaned from Triginai's youth and described so eloquently in Trigiani's prose. Readers may also learn a thing or two along the way -- for example: "Start working early and never retire" (work ethic wisdom) or "Nobody ends up in the gutter being picky" (love wisdom), straight from the mouths of her grandmothers.

Trigiani fans should also seek out her cookbook, published in 2005. Cooking with My Sisters includes both yummy recipes and some tidbits of family history.

Adriana Trigiani discusses the book on the Today show:

1 comment:

  1. I've been hearing such great things about this book. I really need to read it.



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