Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers

( 40 )

Overview

A treasure trove of common sense from two very uncommon women

As devoted readers of Adriana Trigiani's New York Times bestselling novels know, this "seemingly effortless storyteller" (Boston Globe) frequently draws inspiration from her own family history, in particular, the lives of her two remarkable grandmothers, who have found their way into all of Trigiani's treasured novels. In Don't Sing at the Table, this much-beloved writer has gathered their estimable life lessons, ...

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Don't Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers

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Overview

A treasure trove of common sense from two very uncommon women

As devoted readers of Adriana Trigiani's New York Times bestselling novels know, this "seemingly effortless storyteller" (Boston Globe) frequently draws inspiration from her own family history, in particular, the lives of her two remarkable grandmothers, who have found their way into all of Trigiani's treasured novels. In Don't Sing at the Table, this much-beloved writer has gathered their estimable life lessons, revealing how her grandmothers' simple values have shaped her own life, sharing the experiences, humor, and wisdom of her beloved mentors that will delight readers of all ages.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

To her Italian-American grandmothers Lucy and Viola, Adriana Trigiani pays the ultimate compliment; she credits them with teaching her to tell stories: "I mimicked their work ethic imagining myself in a factory, layering words like tasks until the work was done. I took away more than life lessons from their stories; I made a career out of it." In Don't Sing at the Table, that word factory is purring like a cat, sharing its resonant stories of two feisty women who were too busy to think of themselves as feminists. Now in paperback and NOOK Book; editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
Fans of novelist Trigiani will be delighted with this guided tour through the author's family history via her grandmothers, Lucia and Viola. She lovingly details the women's lives and recounts the lessons she's learned while offering a fascinating look at U.S. history from the perspective of her Italian-American forebears. Both Lucia and Viola worked hard from an early age, cooking and cleaning among any number of chores, and parlayed their work ethic and expertise into strong careers. Viola started out as a machine operator and, later, co-owned a mill with her husband, while Lucia worked in a factory and then became a seamstress and storefront couturier. Her grandmothers also took pride in passing along wisdom to others; throughout her life, Trigiani benefited from their guidance regarding everything from marriage to money, creativity to religion. She credits them with telling good stories: "I mimicked their work ethic imagining myself in a factory, layering words like tasks until the work was done. I took away more than life lessons from their stories; I made a career out of it." Here, Trigiani combines family and American history, reflections on lives well-lived, and sound advice to excellent effect, as a legacy to her daughter and a remembrance of two inimitable women. (Nov.)
Booklist
“Soothingly and with clarity…. Readers will find her strength and optimism helpful, and her legions of loyal fans will enjoy learning more about the women who influenced, inspired, and, according to Trigiani, made possible some of her best-selling fiction.”
Boston Globe
“Delightful, energetic. . . . Trigiani is a seemingly effortless storyteller.”
USA Today
“Dazzling.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Well crafted work with sometime lyrical, sometimes flat-out-funny writing.”
Roanoke Times
“Trigiani has certainly not lost her ability to breathe life into everything she writes.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Adriana Trigiani listens to her readers, then gives them what they want. ”
Library Journal
Best-selling author Trigiani (Very Valentine) presents a loving paean to her Italian grandmothers, Viola and Lucy. Both hardworking career women, Viola owned and operated a Pennsylvania clothing factory, and Lucy also ran her own business as a seamstress. Viola is a cantankerous and stern taskmaster who lives by a strict set of rules, has a penchant for Manhattans, snipes groundhogs in her garden with her trusty rifle, and doles out her opinion as she pleases. Immigrant Lucy is more simple and conservative, not enamored of glitz. Trigiani uses their examples to navigate the course of her life and work. The book is at its best when discussing a way of life long gone where privately owned businesses employed local workers to produce quality clothing at affordable prices. Trigiani is pushing the envelope when discussing religion, always a social faux pas, and child rearing, where she completely discounts the father's role.Verdict Minor quibbles aside, there is much warmth in these remembrances, which will resonate with readers who enjoyed strong relationships with their own grandparents and know the value they can bring to our lives.—Mike Rogers, Library Journal

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews

Nostalgic collection by the bestselling author of the Valentine series and Big Stone Gap series.

The author's grandmothers, Lucia Spada and Yolanda "Viola" Perin, both from working-class Italian immigrant backgrounds, knew the score in home economics, maintaining a nice figure, sex and marriage. Trigiani (Brava, Valentine, 2010, etc.) draws on their forthright skills in fashioning a comfortable home for their families in this righteous primer for the virtuous life. Viola grew up on a farm in Delabole, Pa., where her parents began work in the Slate Quarry upon their immigration from Veneto in 1906. Viola met her husband while working at a pants factory in Bangor, Pa., and eventually they started their own mill in Martins Creek, the Yolanda Manufacturing Company, which operated successfully until the late '60s. Viola lived most of her life in an opulent Tudor home in Flicksville, not far from the mill, where she entertained friends, maintained cars "of the moment" and generally lived the good life. Similarly, Lucia, born in Italy, immigrated to New York City with her father in 1917, and found work as a seamstress in a Hoboken, N.J., factory. Relocated with her new Italian husband to Chisholm, Minn., she made a success as a couturiere as well asrunning a shoe shop, which sustained her and her three children after her husband's died when she was 35. What did these hardworking ladies impart to the author, who visited their homes as a child and closely observed them? They both pursued careers while raising their children; they never threw anything away, having both known poverty (when asked why she only owned three dresses, Lucia replied: "How many can I wear at one time?"); they both hadsprezzatura ("effortless style"); they never retired, never remarried and kept up impeccable reputations; and they bought their own homes. Their child-raising skills, moreover, come across as charming if apocryphally rose-colored.

Corny but comforting lessons for readers seeking a simpler way of life.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061958953
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 154,466
  • Product dimensions: 7.94 (w) x 5.36 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Times bestseller The Shoemaker's Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Brava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the bestselling memoir Don't Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She wrote the screenplay for Big Stone Gap, which she also directed. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Biography

As her squadrons of fans already know, Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap, a coal-mining town in southwest Virginia that became the setting for her first three novels. The Big Stone Gap books feature Southern storytelling with a twist: a heroine of Italian descent, like Trigiani, who attended St. Mary's College of Notre Dame, like Trigiani. But the series isn't autobiographical -- the narrator, Ave Maria Mulligan, is a generation older than Trigiani and, as the first book opens, has settled into small-town spinsterhood as the local pharmacist.

The author, by contrast, has lived most of her adult life in New York City. After graduating from college with a theater degree, she moved to the city and began writing and directing plays (her day jobs included cook, nanny, house cleaner and office temp). In 1988, she was tapped to write for the Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, and spent the following decade working in television and film. When she presented her friend and agent Suzanne Gluck with a screenplay about Big Stone Gap, Gluck suggested she turn it into a novel.

The result was an instant bestseller that won praise from fellow writers along with kudos from celebrities (Whoopi Goldberg is a fan). It was followed by Big Cherry Holler and Milk Glass Moon, which chronicle the further adventures of Ave Maria through marriage and motherhood. People magazine called them "Delightfully quirky... chock full of engaging, oddball characters and unexpected plot twists."

Critics sometimes reach for food imagery to describe Trigiani's books, which have been called "mouthwatering as fried chicken and biscuits" (USA Today) and "comforting as a mug of tea on a rainy Sunday" (The New York Times Book Review). Food and cooking play a big role in the lives of Trigiani's heroines and their families: Lucia, Lucia, about a seamstress in Greenwich Village in the 1950s, and The Queen of the Big Time, set in an Italian-American community in Pennsylvania, both feature recipes from Trigiani's grandmothers. She and her sisters have even co-written a cookbook called, appropriately enough, Cooking With My Sisters: One Hundred Years of Family Recipes, from Bari to Big Stone Gap. It's peppered with anecdotes, photos and family history. What it doesn't have: low-carb recipes. "An Italian girl can only go so long without pasta," Trigiani quipped in an interview on GoTriCities.com.

Her heroines are also ardent readers, so it comes as no surprise that book groups love Adriana Trigiani. And she loves them right back. She's chatted with scores of them on the phone, and her Web site includes photos of women gathered together in living rooms and restaurants across the country, waving Italian flags and copies of Lucia, Lucia.

Trigiani, a disciplined writer whose schedule for writing her first novel included stints from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. each morning, is determined not to disappoint her fans. So far, she's produced a new novel each year since the publication of Big Stone Gap.

"I don't take any of it for granted, not for one second, because I know how hard this is to catch with your public," she said in an interview with The Independent. "I don't look at my public as a group; I look at them like individuals, so if a reader writes and says, 'I don't like this,' or, 'This bit stinks,' I take it to heart."

Good To Know

Some fascinating, funny outtakes from our interview with Trigiani:

"I appeared on the game show Kiddie Kollege on WCYB-TV in Bristol, Virginia, when I was in the third grade. I missed every question. It was humiliating."

"I have held the following jobs: office temp, ticket seller in movie theatre, cook in restaurant, nanny, and phone installer at the Super Bowl in New Orleans. In the writing world, I have been a playwright, television writer/producer, documentary writer/director, and now novelist."

"I love rhinestones, faux jewelry. I bought a pair of pearl studded clip on earrings from a blanket on the street when I first moved to New York for a dollar. They turned out to be a pair designed by Elsa Schiaparelli. Now, they are costume, but they are still Schiaps! Always shop in the street -- treasures aplenty."

"Dear readers, I like you. I am so grateful that you read and enjoy my books. I never forget that -- or you -- when I am working. I am also indebted to the booksellers who read the advanced reader's editions and write to me and say, "I'm gonna hand-sell this one." That always makes me jump for joy. I love the people at my publishing house. Smart. Funny, and I like it when they're slightly nervous because that means they care. The people I have met since I started writing books have been amazing on every level -- and why not? You're readers. And for someone to take reading seriously means that you are seeking knowledge. Yes, reading is fun, but it is also an indication of a serious-minded person who values imagination and ideas and, dare I say it, art. I never thought in a million years when I was growing up in Big Stone Gap that I would be writing this to you today. Books have always been sacred to me -- important, critical, fundamental -- and a celebration of language and words. And authors! When I was little, I didn't play Old Maid, I played authors. They had cards with the famous authors on them. Now, granted, they didn't look like movie stars, but I loved what they wrote and had to say. I can boil this all down to one thing: I love to tell stories -- and I love to hear them. I didn't think there was a job in the world where I would get to do both, and now thank God, I've found it."

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 16, 2010

    Things To Live By.

    This book is a wealth of knowledge that will enrich everyones life in one way or another. Grandmothers, in this case, Ms. Trigiani's, having lived their lives using common and uncommon sense as the case may be, impart their wisdom to those who came after them. Italian grandmothers always feel an obligation to teach whether it be how to make a pie or how to boil water for pasta. No matter what your ethnic background grandmothers always have great advice to offer since they've experienced life and all that goes with it. Treasure every word they say because it's as pertinent in this day and age as it was in theirs. DON'T SING AT THE TABLE is much more than just about not singing. It is a treasury of life significantly enhanced by the author's recollections and understanding - and love - of her grandmothers' experiences in their lives and of her applying them to her life today. She was fortunate to have had first hand instruction from grandmothers, Lucy and Viola, and now we're the lucky recipients of all that she recalls. What impressed me the most - because I, too, had sage Italian grandmothers - was Ms. Trigiani's emphasis on how we react to situations in life. I think a lot if not all of the end results are due to our reactions. Don't pass up this true to life, non fiction work of art.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Such a wonderful gift

    Fans of Adriana Trigiani's novels will recognize the women in her non-fiction book- her grandmothers Lucy and Viola have appeared in many of the characters in her fiction. Not only does Trigiani do a marvelous job of recounting the fascinating life stories of these women, she uses their lives to write a primer for living your own life.

    Women like Lucy and Viola are the people who made this country great, and they jump off the pages in this delightful book. They have more than their fair share of troubles, (both of them are widowed), but their sheer will and strength of character will inspire other women to persevere and succeed as they did.

    Although she is an Italian immigrant, Lucy moves to Minnesota and takes on the stoic characteristics of American midwesterners. She loses her husband at an early age and raises her three children on her own, all while running her own business.

    Viola was a pistol, running her own clothing factory, raising her family, entertaining friends in her lovely home, traveling.

    Both women had terrific advice for their granddaughter, and the way that Trigiani structures the book, first telling their life stories, then sharing the how living their lives were examples we could all follow today, makes this book so enjoyable.

    DON'T SING AT THE TABLE would make a great gift for the women in your life, both those starting out and those whose wisdom should be shared with their own families.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An entertaining account of memories, wisdom and lessons that will last generations

    A cherished trip down memory lane for Trigiani. An account of generations before that many will enjoy, Italian descent or not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Not Highly Recommended

    Interesting how the author's grandmothers lived and were independent in an era when this was not that common, but not a great read.

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  • Posted March 10, 2012

    Another great one from my favorite writer!!!*****

    I have all of Adriana's Books. She has a wonderful way with words to make the reader feel as though they are part of the story (and her family) They are light-hearted but hold your interest throughout. As I am of Italian descent, her stories all have something I can identify with in my own family...Brava Adriana

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Poignant Memoir~Wise and Wonderful Grandmothers!

    What a treasure of a small book this is. I stayed up into the wee hours of the night because I just couldn't tear myself away from the story of Viola and Lucy and how they operated in the world. To say that Adriana Trigiani benefited from having them as grandmothers is an understatement.

    I loved that both grandmothers had a strong interest in some area of dressmaking. Viola in the heart and hard work of factory sewing, and then her own blouse-making business; and Lucy in her devotion to clients and perfection when she became a "storefront couturier." Talented and beautiful women, they understood the value and power behind a women dressed well in perfectly fitted, classic clothing. They also understood that keeping up their skin/beauty routine, social standing and family reputations were tantamount to good life, good health and good self-esteem; among other important things.

    It seems Adriana learned so much from them about integrity and self-respect, there's no doubt about that. But, she also learned the value of manners, of going after what you want, of having a purpose in life, of minding your reputation. The specifics of these lessons are ones you'll be delighted to read.

    I thought it was delightful and serious at the same time to read Lucy's lessons first on romantic love, then on keeping a marriage strong. Hers is practical wisdom. Her instructions on raising children are some we absolutely could use today. I particularly liked her dictum never to burden a child with adult problems. That lesson alone would change the mental health of so many children in these times.

    There is so much to this book. It's humorous, it's character building, it's serious and it's a lesson book on how to live a life with wisdom. What a blessing Adriana Trigiani had in these two lovely women. No wonder she's a bestselling author with fragments of these things to share with her readers.

    Those of us who had grandmothers like Viola and Lucy will enjoy reading about them and, possibly, taking a nostalgic trip back to our own childhoods. Those of you who didn't have grandmothers like them will gain something very special in the reading.

    5 perfectly heartwarming stars

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    Great story

    For someone who remembers generations of their family. This is a wonderful read. I have read the majority of her books and like her writing style.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2011

    Excellent!

    Enjoyed every detailed description of Adriana's wonderful Italian Grandmothers, their values and heart warming traditions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2010

    Effortless Is Right

    This book is a charming blend of family history with a sense of nostalgia for days gone by. Trigiani has crafted a book worthy of reading. I'd also recommend that you buy "When God Stopped Keeping Score," which takes an intimate look at the power of God and forgiveness. This book will change your life.

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