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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nothing beats an evening with Adriana Trigiani

I'm always excited about a new book from Adriana Trigiani. Not only do I know that I will enjoy her writing, but I wait with great anticipation for her book tour dates to be posted so I can plan to hear her talk.

You know that the evening will feature her pointing out her favorite people in the audience: her sister Toni, her hardworking assistant Kelly, her editor Lee, various team members from Harper Collins, and several friends (including a late-arriving Richie, who informed us he was "on the lamb"), cousins ("Hi, Antonia!") and former coworkers ("There's Terri Guaneri who I worked with on The Cosby Show. Please don't bother her- she's important!")

Trigiani says she could introduce most people in the audience, and that is true. She scans the audience looking for people she has met, and she remembers them even if she's only met them briefly. She looked at me and said- "You're the blogger from BEA!"

No other author shows such affection to her fans. She spotted a young man with a slouchy hat sitting in the front row, and said "Jake Gyllenhal- what are you doing here?" He looked out of place, but she knew she must know him. She prodded him until he told her his first name, and she said "You're the writer!" He had been in email communication with Adriana, and even never having met him, she knew him right away.

She pointed at some ladies in front and asked them if they were from New York. When they said yes, she said they she could tell they had that New York attitude- "I'll cut ya".

Then Adriana launches into her talk, which can cover many topics, including:

  • A woman who gave her a jar of Fire & Ice pickles at an event in Vero Beach. They were so good, she put the recipe on her website. http://adrianatrigiani.com/recipes.html
  • Her visit to the beauty parlor, where she saw this woman who looked so sensational, Adriana had to find out her secret. (Her husband left her, and after the initial shock, she realized she was finally free and lost 20 pounds.)
  • "I'm Catholic. I'm Italian. I LOVE a good raffle!"
  • Daughters-in-law NEVER get jewelry left to them. "If they're lucky, they get a cracked platter."
  • A hilarious story illustrating the importance of blood family to Italians, told to her about a woman whose daughter was having surgery. When the surgeon brought papers to be signed by the next of kin, the woman's husband of 42 years, the angry mother said "Hey, I'M her mother. I'm her family, I'll sign the papers. Who is he to us?"
Finally, we got around to the topic of Adriana's new book, Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers. It's her first non-fiction book, and she spent three years working on this charming book. 

She lovingly tells the story of her two Italian grandmothers. Lucia, called Lucy, came over from Italy with her father, and ended up in Chisholm, Minnesota. Lucy was a seamstress, and her husband Carlo was a shoemaker. They had three children, but Carlo tragically died when he was 39 years old. Lucy raised her children on her own, owned her own business, and never remarried. 

Viola worked in a clothing factory in Pennsylvania when she was fourteen. By the age of sixteen, she was the forelady. She met her husband Michael at the plant, and they married and eventually bought their own factory to manufacture ladies' blouses.

Both women were successful in business, and had an amazing work ethic, which they clearly passed on to their granddaughter Adriana. When asked which grandmother she identified with most, Adriana said Viola, because "she took no prisoners".

But it is Lucy's advice she follows most closely. Lucy told her "Nobody has to see how many times you rip out the hem", which means that no matter how hard you have to work at something to make it perfect, no one has to see how hard you labored at it. 

Both of her grandmothers told her to never retire, and they never did. After Viola sold their factory the year after her husband died, she went back to work at the factory for the new owners.  Viola enjoyed the fact that at the age of 72, she no longer had to pay income taxes. Lucy worked right up until she moved to a nursing home.

The book is not only a love letter to her grandmothers, both fascinating women, but is as Adriana says,  "on a deeper level, a primer on how to live." She distills her grandmothers' advice into different chapters, such as "Security", "Sex and Marriage", "Children" and "Belief".  

Don't Sing at the Table is the perfect book to give to young women just starting out in life. Adriana's grandmothers were remarkable women, and the way they lived their lives is such a wonderful example for women. They worked hard, loved their husbands and their families, and had self-respect. They are the people who made this country great, and they overcame adversity through their sheer will and shining character. 

Being reminded of that during these difficult times is important, and the timing of this book couldn't be better. Read it as a gift to yourself and give copies of it to the women in your life as a gift to them. It will also encourage you to talk to the remarkable women in your life to hear their stories. 

Rating- 4.5 of 5 stars


  1. I so wanted to attend this - glad you were able to make it! I will definitely pick up this book!

  2. She is the best- she loves her fans and is always entertaining. It's like going to a big party with all of your friends.