Slices of Life: Trumbull author writes about family, love, tradition
Ever listen to the stories and experiences of your family members and friends around the dinner table and think, Someone should write that down?
Lifelong Trumbull resident Joanna M. Leone took that mission to heart and has written a book based on true stories of family, tradition, love, and celebration.
A view from the window of a war-torn town, a young man serenading his true love beneath her balcony, and a man taking care of his wife through illness — like the ingredients of a good meal, her book, Slices of Life: Italian American Stories, combines stories of others that she has written down, adding her own voice and imagery.
While the book was self-published a few years ago, Leone continues to find new ways that people of all backgrounds connect to the stories, she said.
“My book is about ordinary people with extraordinary lives,” Leone said.
While she has lived in Trumbull all of her life, her roots in Italy run deep and her writing and work were inspired at a young age by visiting there many times over the years and spending time with her large Italian family. She is the youngest of six children.
“When I was 13 I had an orange spiral notebook with a picture of a sunset on it,” Leone said. “I would write about anything and everything — experiences with my family, especially at the dinner table or during travel.”
Writing the book started by talking to people she knew and her experiences visiting family in San Donato Val di Comino in Italy. But once she got started, friends began referring to her others who had unique stories to tell. Leone listened, whether over a glass of wine at a restaurant or over a game of bocce.
She is careful to respect the storyteller, sometimes changing the names, as in a love letter she was given permission to reprint.
“I let them open up to me and tell me the story, and I use guided imagery and vivid details so you feel like you’re there in that story,” Leone said.
While the stories come from those of Italian descent, it’s a book that any family or nationality can relate to, she said.
She never had to look far for inspiration. The cover of her book is a black-and-white photo of her parents, after they were just married, before coming to America.
Her mother is wearing a borrowed dress, because she didn’t have much money at the time. Leone’s mother, Antonetta Fabrizio-Leone, would later came to America and work in a dress shop sewing wedding gowns, and her father, the late Donato Leone, was well-known in the area for his stone masonry business. She said her mother’s family, the Fabrizios, are artists and poets, which is partly where she gets her creativity from, but it also comes from her father’s family, whom she describes as bright and hard-working skilled laborers.
While her parents were able to achieve the American Dream, the customs of the old world were crucial, Leone said.
“Writing these stories is a catharsis for me as well,” Leone said. “It allows me to take a journey back in my mind, helping me to remember what’s good in life.”
Her hometown and the natural beauty of Connecticut have also served as inspiration, she said.
While still promoting Slices of Life, Leone is also preparing for a new project, one that will combine her poetry and photos.
To learn more about Joanna Leone and find out how to get a copy of her book, visit AuthorsDen.com/JoannaMLeone. The book is also available on Amazon.com, and a YouTube.com video on the book is available for viewing by searching the book’s title.
She hopes that more people will be inspired by the stories and the values they represent.
“It’s a book of stories about commitment and love — the importance of family,” she said. “It’s a reminder to not forget your own family and traditions.”