Adriana Trigiani grew up in Big Stone Gap in southwestern Virginia. She is a descendent of Italian immigrants who were channeled to the coalmines of Appalachia. In 1980, she graduated from St. Mary's College in South Bend, Ind., where she majored in theater. Trigiani worked as a writer/producer for Bill Cosby on "The Cosby Show."
Her first novel, "Big Stone Gap," was published in 2001. In it and three subsequent Big Stone Gap books, she draws on her family life from the point of view of a sensitive Italian-American woman, Ave Maria Mulligan. She is the author of 12 books, including "Queen of the Big Time," about her father's hometown Roseto, Pa. Trigiani also wrote and produced a film on Roseto that won the award as the Most Popular Documentary at the Hamptons Festival in 1996.
Trigiani loves to write about Italian people who make things -- shoemakers, high-style dressmakers, blouse makers, interior designers, cooks, pharmacists, farmers -- and the laborious detail of the process of their work. She is fascinated by the "philosophy of work done well."
And while Trigiani hardly ever writes directly about the big events and issues in Italian-American history, she does capture a very important truth about the Italian-American experience: The immigrants and their children were not just some helpless, uprooted, unskilled and illiterate group desperately in need of Americanization. Her work accurately documents the talents and can-do attitude that the immigrants brought to the American scene.
-- Dominic Candeloro