Negotiating the Urban/Rural Experience and Appalachian Heritage in Adriana Trigiani's Kiss Carlo

Adriana Trigiani has an agenda in her novels. Her work resonates with the message that she knows her cultural history and appreciates where she came from and who she is. From Big Stone Gap, Virginia, she gives insight into the Italian immigrant experience of coming to America, living in urban centers, and working in factories before migrating into the mountains of Appalachia in southwest Virginia. The strategic moves of her characters (many based on her family’s experiences) from locales in Pittsburg and New York to more rural settings nearby as well as back to villages in Italy are mirrored in her story-telling style. Her latest novel, Kiss Carlo, asks readers to navigate the urban/rural experience of her Italian grandfather through the characters seeking to find their “place.”

The Appalachian experience overlooked by both people who live in the region and those outside the region typically defined as “Appalachia” is the migration of the millions of immigrants from towns and cities that are outside or on the fringes of the geographical lines.

I propose an analysis of Trigiani’s latest novel as a portrayal of the migration from cities and towns into more mountainous communities. Paul Salstrom’s chapter, “Newer Appalachia as One of America’s Last Frontiers” in Appalachia in the Making (Pudup, Billings, Waller 1995) shed light on my “Appalachian” upbringing in Roanoke, Virginia, and helped me to identify my Appalachian heritage. Using Salstrom’s definition of the region, many people considered to be outside the region should feel connected to the Appalachian experience.