Best-selling author visits Darien
Energertic and dynamic, best-selling author Adriana Trigiani recently swept into the Darien Community Association, shaking guests' hands and, like the consummate showman that she is, exclaimed dramatically, "Hi, ladies! I'm here!" As she made her way to the stage, Trigiani told those in attendance at Opus for Person to Person's fundraising benefit that, as a special treat, she brought along her good friend Bill Persky, a renowned comedy writer and producer of icnonic television shows, "That Girl," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Kate and Allie."
"He's my opening act," Trigiani announced last Wednesday night. And, true to her word, Trigiani turned the spotlight on Perksy, whom she met while she was churning out scripts and crafting funny lines for some of television's most revered comedic stars. This was, of course, before her reincarnation as a popular novelist specializing in tales based on her childhood growing up in a large Italian family.
Trigiani's first non-fiction book "Don't Sing at The Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers" was published earlier this month. It was conceived, she said, out of a desire to provide a family history for her 8-year old daughter, Lucia.
Using vivid descriptions, Trigiani beautifully portrays the distinct personalities of strong Italian women who undoubtedly influence her own strong-- yet open and warm -- character.
"They led us in every possible way," Trigiani noted. With a smile, she added, "And, they'd be mortified to know that I wrote about them."
Grandmother Viola began working in a factory when she was only 14. "She taught me everything about having a work ethic," Trigiani said. Lucia, the oldest of eight children, arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, to work in a factory with her father. Their plan was to work hard and save money and then return to their home in the Northern Italian Alps. Unfortunately, when she attempted to leave the United States, Lucia developed an extreme motion sickness and became violently ill on the boat. "She was 17 years old and she couldn't go back home," Trigiani explained. "She knew she would never see her mother again."
In "Don't Sing At The Table," Trigiani details how the lives of these two women intersected when her parents wed. And, although they exhibited a great deal of respect for each other, during their lifetime they never called each other by their first names. However, Trigiani said it was "very moving" to realize that although Lucia could never set foot in her native country again, Viola went back to her Lucia's Italian hometown and connected, on her behalf, with all of her family and friends.
"This book is a primer on how to live," Trigiani said.
Sprinkled throughout her talk -- which lasted more than two hours -- Trigiani recounted anecdotes about her family, especially her mother's penchant for collecting jewelry. "We love jewelry in our family," Trigiani enthused. In fact, as soon as she arrived, Trigiani pointed to a large ring she was wearing and said that she'd be giving it away in a raffle drawing that night.
One of seven children --"I'm in the middle of five girls and two boys" -- Trigiani referred to the blatant sexism found in some Italian families. "When my mother sees the face of my brothers Michael and Carlo, she sees the face of God," Trigiani said.
When asked by a member of the audience, Trigiani spoke about her writing process. She admitted to taking time to think about the novel's plot and characters before sitting down to write it. And, Trigiani admitted that she's influenced by "those I'm around and what I'm going through."
Ironically, though, people don't often recognize themselves in her work. "I come from a world of making up characters based on people in real life but they never recognize themselves," she laughed.
Begnning with her first novel, "Big Stone Gap," which will soon be made into a film, and the popular "Very Valentine" series -- which Trigiani recently sold to Lifetime to be made into a television movie -- Trigiani's themes center around relationships. "I am fascinated by who we choose to love," she said. "I'm also obsessed with what we choose to do for work."
Westport resident Mary Ellen Giordano and her mother Catherine Gavigan, of New Jersey, enjoyed listening to all of Trigiani's humorous remarks during her appearance in Darien. "I felt like I was at a comedy show," Gavigan said.
From the moment she walked into the room, Gavignon said that Trigiani displayed a gregarious nature that is similar to the characters she creates.
Giordano added that she especially liked hearing Trigiani talk about her family. A mother of three sons, Giordano thought it was wonderful that Trigiani wrote the new book for her daughter.
All of the proceeds from Trigiani's appearance will be used to help children and families in Darien and its surrounding community. Alex Eising, president of Opus, said that funds are used to support local food pantries, energy assistance programs and campership scholarships.
"We've helped to raise over $2 million over the past 14 years," she said.
Rosanna Nissen, event coordinator at Barrett Bookstore, helped to secure Trigiani's appearance. "We knew she had a great fan base and were thrilled that she was available to come to Darien," she said.
Guests were able to purchase "Don't Sing At The Table" and other books written by Trigiani Wednesday night for a book signing that was held after her presentation.