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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Adriana Trigiani at Barnes & Noble

Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year- Adriana Trigiani's annual book signing event at Barnes & Noble 86th St. store in New York City.

The atmosphere is always like a party, and the only thing missing is alcohol and hors d'oeurves. Adriana sweeps into the room, hugging and blowing kisses to her friends in the room, which is pretty much anyone who has ever met her once.

At the podium she scans the room, calling out "her peeps", including Jonathan Burnham, her publisher, whom she says "is handsome and British- two of my favorite food groups." And the laughter began.

She asked "Who's Italian here?" and 3/4 of the people in the room raised their hands. I sometimes feel left out, as I am Irish/English/Scottish, but the Italian people are very welcoming. She asked people "where they are from" and the Italians started spouting off villages and regions in Italy. A mixed marriage in Italy "is one between two people from different villages."

Adriana is married to a man of Scottish descent, and she said that "an American is a person who doesn't know where he is from." She said that when people say "we're Scottish", she says "what does that mean?" She doesn't understand people who don't know from where their ancestors came. (Guilty: I have no idea.)

To get ready to write her epic novel, The Shoemaker's Wife, she said that she had to "reconnect with her Italianess" and that meant watching a Rocky movie marathon. She recalled thinking how hot Sylvester Stallone was in those movies, and joked that the movie was memorable for the bad hat that Adrian wore, because "all Italian girls have a key moment in their life where they are wearing a bad hat."

The book is based on her grandparents love story. They lived five miles from each other in Italy, but didn't meet until they came to America, living in Hoboken. I loved this lush, gorgeous book (my review is here), and was fascinated by the little tidbits of inside information we got last night.

The book is dedicated to her great-uncle Monsignor Don Andrea Spada, brother to her grandmother Lucia. He was the editor of L'Eco di Bergamo, a Catholic newspaper, for 51 years, and Adriana credits her "gift of words", as one audience member said, as coming from him. The character of Eduardo is based in part on the monsignor.

The book itself is gorgeous because Adriana says that her readers "love beautiful things." The outer cover feels so rich, and has raised lettering on it. It feels like a book you would have bought back in the day. The cover is a photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, who took portrait photos for Harper's Bazaar in the 1940s and 1950s. The model for the photo is the same model on the cover of Adriana's book Lucia, Lucia (also by Dahl-Wolfe).

Adriana told a story of the model, an older woman by now, seeing herself on the book cover of Lucia, Lucia in Target and telling her daughter "that's me!" Her daughter contacted Adriana and the women met. Can you imagine seeing yourself on the cover of a book?

A lot of research went into this book, and one fascinating fact Adriana mentioned was that the United States sent 10,000 men a week to fight in World War I. To get that many men, they were offered citizenship if they fought, and most of the men who did this were Puerto Rican. (There is a Puerto Rican soldier in the book who befriends Ciro.) She mentioned a great book on WWI by Peter Englund, The Beauty and the Sorrow.

In the Q&A session, the inevitable question of when the movie of Big Stone Gap will be made came up. Adriana likes Ashley Judd for the role of Ave Maria, and told a funny story about meeting with actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny from TV's Gray's Anatomy) in an L.A. hotel room to discuss him playing Jack Mac. (Her makeup started to melt.)

I want to thank Adriana for the lovely words she said about me and my blog, and bloggers in general. It's nice that authors appreciate the role that bloggers have in discussing books and why we love them.

At every book signing, we take a photo together, and although I really hardly ever like any photos of me, I always like the photos of Adriana and me.
Adriana and me at Barnes & Noble 

If you have the opportunity to see Adriana at an event, do it! (Her tour stops are here). And if you are looking for a big, lush, epic book about star-crossed love, family, the building of America in beautiful settings, get a copy of The Shoemaker's Wife.  (Mother's Day is around the corner- ask your kids to buy it for you!)


  1. What a fun post-it sounds like a great evening.

  2. What a wonderful evening you had! Yes, Adriana is such a friend to her readers, and very appreciative of the word-of-mouth from book groups, bloggers, etc.

    And such a fun and entertaining speaker!