Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.
Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story
Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s—on her way to America, she hopes—but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it—even if it means using lethal force.
As Amador tells the imagined story of how his great-grandmother risked it all, he delivers richly drawn characters and a heart-wrenching page-turner that readers won’t soon forget.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Trini Amador vividly remembers the day he found a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering through his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun. This experience sparked a journey towards Gracianna, Amador’s debut novel, inspired by true events and weaving reality with imagination. It's a tale drawing from real-life family experiences.
Mr. Amador is a traveled global marketing "insighter.” He is a sought-after guru teaching multinational brand marketers to understand how customer and consumer segments behave based on their needs, values, motivations, feeling and values. He has trained over five thousand brand marketers on how to grow brands in over 20 countries in the last 15 years. His counseling has been valued at global brands including General Electric, Microsoft, AT&T, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, Google, Jack Daniel’s, The J.M. Smucker Co., DuPont, Mattel, and Rodale, Inc..
Amador is also a founding partner with his wife and children of Gracianna Winery, an award-winning winery located in Healdsburg, California. The winery also pays tribute to the Amador Family’s maternal grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. Her message of being thankful lives on through them. The Gracianna winery strives to keep Gracianna’s gratitude alive through their wine. Learn more at:www.gracianna.com, like Gracianna Winery on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @GraciannaWinery.
Amador resides in Sonoma County with his family.
Read an Excerpt
A novel inspired by true events
By TRINI AMADOR
Greenleaf Book Group PressCopyright © 2013 Jose Trinidad Amador III
All rights reserved.
GROWING UP GRACIANNA
Her name was Gracianna Arrayet. Her mother was Ann. Her birth certificate read, "Father Unknown." Her people were Basque. Her grandmother, Grand-mère Anastasia, was a staunch Basque woman.
Gracianna was born in the Pyrenees—the daunting, green-granite and limestone mountains that form the border between France and Spain. They wind like a fickle sea snake drinking from the cold Atlantic's Bay of Biscay in the west, stretching its body overland for 300 miles with a flicking tail that warms in the Mediterranean Sea to the east at Cap de Creus.
Growing up in the Pyrenees after the turn of the century, Gracianna came to enjoy excellent health, her muscles conditioned by walking the steep hills and valleys of her mountain kingdom, and performing endless chores at home. Chores were what Gracianna remembered and she enjoyed doing most of them. She did not enjoy doing outside chores however because the yard was filled with chickens, pigs and sheep. There was just too much going on around her and she had to watch her step, too.
Of course, she never complained. Grand-mère Anastasia would have none of that. "And neither would God!" Grand-mère would be sure to point out, her woolly brows scrunching as she crossed herself with three fingers.
No, Gracianna much preferred other domestic "tidying" chores and the long walks to attend church or share goods with neighbors. Most of all, though, it was books that she loved.
Books were always with her, borrowed from her teachers, the Catholic rectory, the neighbors. Late at night, long after everyone in the village was fast asleep, Gracianna was still reading by candlelight in the quiet of the bedroom she shared with her little sister, Constance. Of course, she made sure to flex the carelessly dripped hardened wax off the worn pages that she'd consumed before she returned the books, sometimes walking on autopilot, reading or de-waxing, her feet knowing the path, each rock, each gnarl and dip.
Her favorite subject was world history, but her favorite story was the folk-story of Pyrene, the princess from whom the Pyrenees' tragic name was born. She had heard the tale fireside many times as local festivals died down. Juan was a local boy she knew whose grandfather was her favorite at telling the story. An elder from the area, most everyone called him "Big Juan," and she'd heard him tell that tale in at least three languages, depending on which foreigners were visiting. Most of the people who live in the region spanning parts of north-central Spain and southwestern France are tri-lingual, speaking French, Spanish, and Basque and usually some Portuguese depending on their nationality. But above all she loved her native Basque, the language unrelated to any other European languages, more isolated, more ancient.
"Pyrene," Big Juan would begin, his warm voice mysterious, "was the young, beautiful virgin daughter of Bebryx, a king in Mediterranean Gaul. Once, King Bebryx hosted Hercules, who was on a quest to steal the whole herd of cattle from Geryon, the giant, three-headed war-mongering monster!" That usually got some attention.
"Now, Hercules was known for his strength and heroism, but he was less known for his drinking, boisterousness, lust, and indiscretion, like some other people you should watch out for."
There was a solemn pause.
"Apparently, all of Hercules' vast strength was useless against his own weakness because he violated the most inviolate rules of hospitality." Then, after spitting in the fire, Big Juan would explain to the mostly-child audience how Hercules had forcibly defiled his host's 15-year-old daughter, how Pyrene ended up giving birth to an ugly, vicious serpent that represented all that was evil and sadistic about the "hero" Hercules, and how she was then unable to face the horror-struck villagers and, most of all, her father. The children's eyes would be wide by now and their parents, most in festive moods and not paying attention, were unaware of the nightmares Big Juan was spawning. Finally he told his small audience that the young mother Pyrene ran away into the outer forest. In her grief and all alone she lamented, sobbing out her story.
"Why me?" Big Juan would wail dramatically playing the role of Pyrene. "I feel so very alone and afraid," he would whisper, "but Pyrene was not alone, and soon her fear turned to terror!" And he would describe the many eyes that were watching her from the darkness.
Big Juan explained that instead of gaining the consolation from the forest and feeling the wispy touch of the worried weeping willows, "She drew the attention of a score of wild beasts in nature's trick of seduction. The coarse-haired musty black wolves, the grizzled brown bear, and the muscled mountain lion chased her past the hot springs and through the craggy rocks toward a cliff where she could have jumped. But with a twisted sense of guilt Pyrene turned to face the animals," he paused for the effect, "and then ... she punished herself." He looked toward the parents looking on, and he smiled and nodded toward them as he amused himself. "And then ... Pyrene allowed the animals to tear her tiny body from limb to limb." Some of the children backed up. "And as the first bite sunk into her flesh, she went inside herself, into her head and into a place where she knew heaven was not far. The dumb-eyed ancient ibex stood by watching but did not know what to do. The blind insects common to our high meadows could not see anything, but tears formed in their eyes nonetheless."
Waiting a moment for the children who had tears in their eyes to absorb the terror, he went on with even more details.
"Pyrene could then hear the animals tearing and growling and gnawing and gnarling into her and understood that this was better treatment than when Hercules stole her 'self ' from herself. For a moment her will to live was revived in a flicker, but she died," his stuttered inflection deepened, "Seven ... minutes ... later."
He would allow the children to look at each other in disbelief and then would explain, as if it were the moral of the story, how Hercules, victorious over Geryon despite the rain and now on his exultant march homeward, had passed through the kingdom of Bebryx and happened to stumble upon his conquest's shredded body! "Pyrene!" Hercules picked up the pieces of her little body and held them close and lamented.
Big Juan loved to lament as Hercules! He told of how Hercules wanted to jump with Pyrene's tattered remains into the abyss, how he finally recognized his corruption, how he howled in sorrow and rage, and finally, he placed Pyrene's body on a soft bed of peat moss. When it began to rain, as it often does in that moist region of swirling bulbous clouds that form in the Atlantic over the Bay of Biscay, Hercules turned to face Mother Nature, who was human nature, too, in all of her glory and weakness.
"Mourn with me!" Big Juan would shout as Hercules had shouted at the valleys, the rivers, and the lakes. He quickened the story here because some parents were catching on since the children had not made a sound for nearly thirty minutes. "Pyrene is your own!" And on Big Juan would go.
"But the gentle rain and mist did not ease his pain, and he, with Herculean voice, shouted, 'Pyrene! Pyrene! Pyrene! Pyrene! Pyrene!' The name echoed through the mountains, and her name haunts the region still.
"And the story finishes with this quote from a famous book," Big Juan would swoon, looking into the eyes of each and every petrified child, "'Struck by Herculean voice, the mountaintops shudder at the ridges; he keeps crying out with a sorrowful noise "Pyrene!" and all the rock-cliffs and wild-beast haunts echo back "Pyrene!" The mountains hold on to the wept-over name through the ages.' And that's how our mountains got the name the Pyrénées."
Even though it was terrifying, Gracianna loved the story because it told of how her birthplace had been named.
While she enjoyed local lore, Gracianna branched out with her reading. Any subject was open for study and scrutiny, and Gracianna would eventually know most subjects cold.
"If you don't apply yourself, you won't get anywhere," she would insist while standing on her toes, always nearly a head shorter than the next child, to any who were jealous of her ability to quote verses from poems and entire passages of history. They just didn't seem to be like her—"ambitious and curious," as her mother, Ann, had once boasted.
Gracianna, with her broad face and always-thin wetted lips, was naïve but wickedly aware like her mother and grand-mère. So aware, that all the other children were wary of her and adults were initially surprised at her ability. She saw and heard everything. And, remembered everything she saw. Although not outgoing, she had a natural social nuance. Her mother chalked up any awkwardness to the white streak in her prematurely turning hair (Gracianna's brown hair had already started turning white by her sixth birthday). Once she decided to engage with anyone on a given subject, they would become transfixed by her confidence, and the grasp and depth of her knowledge. Her sureness came from her strong core.
Close to the ground, with strong legs planted, her wisdom was delivered from roots steeped below the earth. Earthly nutrients seeped self-assurance and knowledge into her from a young age. It was conceived that she would be invited to become a nun—even at this early age—since the best and brightest were invited to be closer to the church and God.
However, there was something gnawing at her. It was her drive to make everything clean, bright, and right, all the time. It was in her and it would haunt her throughout her life.
More and more, Gracianna began to notice that there didn't seem to be any people in the village who were like her.
Gracianna thought: At least my mother understands me.
THE STORY OF ANN
Gracianna still thought of her now and then. Mère [mother] ...
"We're not carefree, but we're happy," Ann would say with a toothy smile, tucking Gracianna and her little sister, Constance, into the sleeping cupboard near the kitchen, the warmest room in the house. And she would sing soft and low as she cleaned and swept a half step away and tended to the heat of the fireplace. Her favorite was a sailor's song of hope and love and life and equality:
I go away to provide for the family I go away to clear my mind I go away to make for the new I go away to come home for love
But that was all over now.
Ann had died in childbirth when Gracianna was eight and Constance was six. Sometimes, it was impossible for Gracianna not to think of that night.
The screaming had been horrific. The long silences worse.
Gracianna had been hiding behind the pulled curtain, too afraid to even peek. She'd heard birth before. It was painful. It could mean death as well. She had tucked that knowledge away. The low birth moans had become a hush, and now there was only screaming. Suddenly, Grand-mère's soothing tones had turned into frantic prayer, the kind of prayer that is blurted at the moment of truth when you know there is no alternative but to beg a higher power to intercede.
The priest just appeared. Gracianna still didn't know who had sent for him or when, but he was there, standing right at the bedside as if following a familiar path.
The praying and screaming grew louder and then it became quiet ... for too long ... life and maybe death was all happening too fast. Little Constance had fallen asleep in the long lull, unable to keep her eyes open waiting for the baby, and now she was mercifully oblivious to the brink of loss. As if from the core of the earth, there was a last powerful but quiet push. Then, more silence. Gracianna had heard this before, too—a final push with a growling grunt and then nothing—it meant the baby was stillborn. It had happened to Ann a year before. Last time, her mother had started to cry.
But there is no crying this time—it is silent ... a dead baby—could it be?
Gracianna flung open the curtain that had obscured her eyes and saw it all.
The priest reached to cover her eyes but she saw a bloody butchering. There was the bloody baby and her bloody mother, both still, the baby blue; her mother, just gone. No glinting eyes. No lilting smile. No reaching of the hardworking hands with the softest wrists that always caressed her face.
Now nothing. Just nothing.
Gracianna rushed into the bloody mess, pouncing on her mother's bed like she had a hundred times before. The priest barely held her back, weak with self-guilt for his miscarried effort. An exhausted Grand-mère Anastasia had crumpled into the chair beside her dead daughter's bed.
Gracianna flung her tiny bony elbows around her mother's neck, not noticing that she scraped her knees on the bedside. Then it was Gracianna's turn to beg.
"Oh! Dieu! S'il vous plaît! Maman! Dieu! Reste avec moi reste avec moi Reste avec moi reste avec moi reste avec moi reste avec moi reste avec moi reste avec moi reste avec moi reste avec moi! oh! Dieu!" [Oh! God! Please! Mommy! God! Stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me stay with me oh! God]!"
But Ann was already gone. Nothing. Her mother's sweet songs were forever stricken from Gracianna's memory, forever replaced with the drawling, paining, echoing death.
Finally, Gracianna's prayers became quieter.
Fallen, she whispered the Lord's Prayer into her mother's cooling soft ear over and over desperate to try to get her mother to stay. It began, "Notre Père [Our Father]...."
She repeated the prayer over and over as the cleanup began, crossing herself each time.
"Notre Père," as one by one the birth team left under the mountain moon and the auntie who had helped deliver Gracianna years before bowed out in tears with an armful of red linen.
"Notre Père," when the midwives gave way to the incoming neighbor, Jacque, who would help clean the wreckage and bury the lifeless players after their valiant struggle for life.
"Notre Père," again as the neighbor lady, who had a seven-child brood, left to feed them.
"Notre Père," as the priest departed patting Gracianna's stay-with-me-Mommy bowed head. Oh, Notre Père....
And each time, she made the sign of the cross, over and over until she finally wept ... then slept.
Gracianna was left to grieve twice for the brother not-to-be and the mother who had been her every being. Her mother was unable to grieve the death of her just-born still-child since she was now dead herself. Like Gracianna's father, the father of the blue boy was "unknown," and so never spoken of. The village children were taught the code of polite silence, and Gracianna obeyed as well. She figured her father was likely a mariner, one of the local men who went to sea to escape the herding life. She would never know. Now with no mother, her father, whom she'd never missed, was missed.
"Mon Père [My Father]...."
Lifting her head from her mother's cooling face, Gracianna panicked.
Who will take care of Constance and me?
Into her grandmother's care she had gone, along with Constance. She had no idea what an influence Anastasia would have.
Over time, Gracianna tried to be grateful for the eight short years of mothering she'd received from Ann.
But it wasn't really eight was it?
It was only four, because she couldn't remember anything before the age of four years old. There were many days she that couldn't remember anything specific happening.
So it was really three years wasn't it?
She realized that of her eight years she could only recall a handful of days that were truly meaningful.
So mother was really only my mother for about fifteen days?
It was hard to be grateful when their time together had been so short, the memories so sweet, the parting so bitter. In the end, Gracianna could not recall her mother's memory without feeling the pain of tragic loss; loss so painful it hindered her or hampered or blotted out any memory of the good.
Now I think the fear of losing someone dear is greater than my need to love again.
Despite the loss of her mother, with her grandmother and aunts and uncles and little sister close by, Gracianna did have plenty of love and plenty of chores to keep her busy, Grand-mère Anastasia made sure of that.
Her grand-mère made sure of a lot of things.
"You are Basque," was Anastasia's familiar homily, always only speaking Basque at home. "In ancient Roman, that means 'proud mountain people.' These are your people: fierce, independent, free. Even the Romans knew not to be rough with us, especially with the women. Even Basque men respect their women—where else? That's because strong women equal a strong culture. Plus, women do a perfect job of running the household and tending the gardens, that's why we pass everything to our daughters. Let the men tend the sheep and we'll welcome them home! Now eat your potatoes, you have to sweep." Even though there was no man who would be coming home.
Excerpted from Gracianna by TRINI AMADOR. Copyright © 2013 by Jose Trinidad Amador III. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Trini Amador hits it out of the park…again! First, the family presented us with stunningly scrumptious Gracianna wines, and now a captivating, inspiring, and without a doubt, epic novel. Amador captures the passions and plight of a young woman fighting for what she believes in. He artfully reveals Gracianna’s physical and emotional battle as she struggles with her passion to reach America. The novel gives the reader the motivating reminder that our lives are the product of the effort we put into them. The characters in the book are all simultaneously fighting for a cause they desperately believe in, whether self-serving or for the good of all. Bravo to Mr. Amador for delivering life’s many lessons so skillfully and poetically in his first novel, Gracianna.
This inspiring and heart warming story is well told by Trini Amador. His story telling develops the characters so you feel you know them deeply. Gracianna's story is a true American story of a girl and her quest for a better life. Enjoy!
The story begins by describing childhood moments of Gracianna and her sister Constance in their homeland, the Basque Pyrenees . They were raised only by a mother without a father until the mother died in childbirth when Gracianna was eight and Constance six years old. After the mother passed away the two girls were taken care of by their grandmother who taught them how to be a "perfect" women in every way. Gracianna grew into a smart woman who was a persistent perfectionist and determined. She had a vision to move to America, sought a smart man from university to marry and live her dream life. Unlike Gracianna, Constance grew into stubborn shallow women who relied on her physical beauty. There was also Juan, a strong young man, simple and shy, he was Gracianna’s childhood friend who worked as a shepherd in their hometown. Realizing that he loves Gracianna, Juan decided to follow her to Paris. He worked hard to get her love and marry her. Constance eventually followed them to Paris to pursue her dream as well. Pursuing her dream, Gracianna went to Paris and worked as a waitress in a café to raise the funds she needed. She worked for a gentleman that later she found out was a member of the Resistance against the Nazis. It was the beginning of World War II, Paris was occupied. Gracianna's café was a place for Nazi officers to relax after work. The café was also a home base of one faction of the Resistance who were working underground to dislocate the Nazis. In a turn of events Constance was arrested by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp in Auschwitz. The prison was desolate with few expecting to survive from Nazi cruelty. Wanting to help her sister, Gracianna agreed to be a part of the Paris Resistance. Her job was to be the "bait" for Nazi officers who came to the bar. She was to kill officers who had been indicated as targets by the Resistance. Gracianna acted as the executioner and the Resistance as the planner and cleaner. Her unyielding desire to rescue her sister caused conflict between Gracianna, Juan and the Resistance. Once she found that her final target had the power to release her sister from the camp, Gracianna was determined to use her own way to deal with him. While the Resistance worried her efforts would ruin their operations. Juan doubted whether their love could survive and whether they would ever get to America together. The author fully developed the characters in a way that made you care for them from the outset and the situations were captivating. Add the fact that the story based on true events makes it more thrilling. It is a very inspiring story! Would like to read any of his other books in the future.
Seldom does a novel keep your rapt attention from the first page to the very last. "Gracianna" by Trini Amador is the definition of a "page-turner". Skillful storytelling and rich characterization transport you to Paris during World War II. Gracianna's ability to overcome the harrowing experiences of her young life are testament to her strength of spirit and dreams--a valuable takeaway for all of us. You must treat yourself to a captivating novel-"Gracianna"
I was going to review the book here but instead feel I need to use this space to set the record straight. Not sure why "Anonymous" on July 27 would leave such an obviously fake and hurtful review. The book was edited by Hillel Black who was TWENTY New York Times bestsellers under his belt. The book clearly follows the Chicago Manual style and is beautifully written. Shame on the reviewer below me who has nothing better to do than to sully an authors reputation. I hope B&N will remove the obviously offensive and contrived review. That said, Gracianna is a fabulous book - I couldn't NOT say something positive about this gem of a book. ;)
This book would benefit from an editor and better English. It's a disaster.