Years later as an adult I came to realize how profoundly my family experiences have shaped who I am as a person, a teacher, and a writer.  In researching and writing, Wrestling with the Devil, my first published work I was able to draw on my family experiences to accurately and authentically tell the story in my father’s voice.  ​And in depicting the story in my illustrated children's book, Tino & the Pomodori, I was also able to relate my experiences growing up harvesting tomatoes and making sauce every fall with my family.

I still live and work in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and my family has evolved and grown. Maybe we are now a little less Italian and a little more American – the years bringing inevitable change.  But even with the world racing by at a hundred miles per hour, I try (as difficult as it may be) to stay true to the simple values of my family’s humble beginnings: wholesome food, lovely red wine, and most importantly, boisterous, beautiful family.​

​​​​​​​​Growing up in southeast Portland, Oregon I was aware early on that my family was unique.  We had an in-home butcher shop, my grandfather made red wine in his garage, and we spent many weekends hunting for Boletus (porcini) mushrooms on Mt. Hood. We also had a luscious backyard garden surrounded by fruit trees, so naturally for my very first experience with show-and-tell in kindergarten I just had to bring in my all-time favorite fruit from our backyard- figs. To my (and my teacher's) dismay, by the time they got to school in my backpack they more resembled the entrails of a small animal than the exotic fruit I so loved. As horrifying as that experience was, it did not deter my love for this alluring, sweet fruit.

Tonya Russo Hamilton