- Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani
- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Harper (November 9, 2010)
- ISBN-13: 978-0061958946
Back-of-the-book blurb: As readers of Adriana Trigiani’s novels know, the author draws inspiration from her own family history, in particular from the lives of her two remarkable grandmothers. In Don’t Sing at the Table, Trigiani 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.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: I found myself nodding in recognition at the wisdom imparted to Adriana Trigiani by her grandmothers. The kind of love and life lessons shared by Lucia Spada Bonicelli and Yolanda Perin Trigiani know no geographic boundaries; I haven’t got a drop of Italian blood in me, yet felt the universality of their lead-by-example spirits.
This is an amazing tribute to two special women in the author’s life. She is fortunate that one grandmother “kept everything” – a sign of her thriftiness, but also a treasure trove when Trigiani went searching for photos to document this family memoir. She is also, as she acknowledges, fortunate to have known both grandmothers, who modelled both how to run a business and how to run a home.
I also have wonderful memories of my grandmothers; who lived only a few miles from me when I was a child. For years I’ve been collecting family history data – the raw (boring) facts of numbers, dates, and places. I want to turn these cold facts into stories for my own children, and Don’t Sing at the Table has inspired me to take the plunge and do that – one page at a time.
I was hooked by the book early on, when one specific connection really made me smile. Adriana Trigiani tells of her grandmother Viola, the seamstress who kept her home and yard very neat, believing that these represented as much about her as the garments she turned out from her blouse factory. Viola would often ask her young granddaughter to help with chores inside and outside the house. When there was nothing left to do, she’d be asked to “pick up sticks.” Perhaps this was the 1960s/70s version of “busy work,” but I found a common thread. I, too, would wander the yard looking for errant branches from windstorms and adding them to “the stick pile” in Gram’s back yard. Guess what I suggest to my own kids when I hear “I’m bored!”?! That’s right – go outside and pick up sticks!
Other favorites that I recall from Don’t Sing at the Table; this reminds me of the Freecycle system we use today:
The examples of bartering among the immigrants are legion, and it was a system where everyone benefited from the exchange. Nothing was thrown away, as there was always someone who might use what you didn’t need any longer. This exchange brought a civility and network of support that my grandmother would honor all her life.
Trigiani recounts that, aside from their families, most of her grandmothers’ accomplishments happened after the age of forty. Being of a certain age, I appreciate the author’s sentiments that:
The best years in a woman’s life are after forty … It’s wonderful to be young, and there are gifts in it, but it is impossible to be young and have experience.
This is a treasure of a book; Trigiani presents personal reminiscences and a tribute to her grandmothers, a slice of social history, and a trigger for the reader’s own memories.
Sit down with Don’t Sing at the Table and a box of Kleenex. No store-brand tissues; the author’s grandmothers – and your grandmother - deserve the best! You might not need them right away, but you may find yourself with tears of happy memories running down your cheeks. I hope you do … then grab a pen and notebook and write about them!
Read other reviews and reflections on Don’t Sing at the Table at the following blogs; some are also featuring stories of their own mothers or grandmothers, interviews with the author, and giveaways:
- 11/9/10 Booking Mama
- 11/10/10 5 Minutes for Books
- 11/11/10 Bookin’ with Bingo
- 11/12/10 S. Krishna’s Books
- 11/16/10 BermudaOnion
- 11/17/10 Devourer of Books
- 11/18/10 Presenting Lenore
- 11/19/10 My Friend Amy
- One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books
p.s. I feel compelled to share a bit about my grandmothers, in order to jumpstart that promise I’ve made to keep these stories for my kids. I realized that the day my post is scheduled to run (11/15) would have been my Nana’s 99th birthday. Like Trigiani’s grandmother Viola, Nana did factory work (Waltham Watch; which is now fancy loft, office, and retail space). Nana passed away 6 summers ago, when I was pregnant with our youngest child. When I told her that I was going to give the baby her maiden name for a middle name she said “oh, don’t do that, pick a pretty name” … I disobeyed her
My father’s mother (Gram) lived to be 90. Stories I remember about her work life include her time as a paid companion and as the housemother of a boarding school. She took her homemaking (home management) skills seriously, and seemed a master of them all – sewing, cooking, baking, gardening; well, maybe she was a bit less than fastidious when it came to housecleaning (that must be where I get my “you’ll never see it going by in a bus” attitude about some of our dust bunnies!). Earlier this year I shared a tribute to her baking magic in my “In Search of Grammy’s Hermit Recipe” post.