As the class brainstormed ideas, Figliuzzi started thinking about her beloved Nonna Filomena who had died the year before. “With some help from nonna, the Italian culture was always present in our household,” recalls Figliuzzi. “Nonna taught us the meaning of family, unity and courage. She was a very hard-working, compassionate and giving woman whose life was her family.”
Figliuzzi, who has been an Educational Resource Worker/Autistic Intervener for over two decades, decided to write a fictional story inspired by her years growing up in Toronto’s Little Italy at Dufferin Street and St. Clair Avenue West. She lived in her nonna’s home alongside extended family who had emigrated from Calabria. The heart of the home was Nonna Filomena’s magnificent garden, whose bearings were shared within the family but also within the community. After writing the story, Figliuzzi began sharing it with her students. She quickly realized it was a tale worth preserving.
“When I read the story to the children, I could see their imaginations running. I started reading it more often to other children throughout the years and I was surprised how they were attentive to the story and understood the important lesson behind it.” Just as tradition and family is a running theme in Nonna’s Garden so too is it in Figliuzzi’s own life. She credits her daughter Sabrina, an elementary school children, for providing the support and encouragement to help Figliuzzi publish the book in December 2011. Since that time, Figliuzzi continues to receive feedback from readers. “I was overwhelmed by the responses I received from people who could relate to the story as children. Today, the book is still often read to classrooms where it is used for passing the message of giving, sharing, family and unity regardless of race, religion or culture.”
For more information about Nonna’s Garden, please contact Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org.