Win the book I’m still raving about: ‘How To Love An American Man’

Back in the dark ages — okay, April
I read a book that completely blew me away: Kristine Gasbarre’s How To Love An American Man.

I’ve done some thinking about why the book resonated so completely with me, and the conclusion I’ve reached is thus: Krissy is a real person who wrote a real story about her real relationships with her family, especially her grandparents, and it was such a refreshing change to read about a woman close to my age grappling with the same issues as me: searching for and keeping love; maintaining closeness as a family; growing up and moving on, but still wanting to stay close to those who have come to define you.

I was so moved by How To Love An American Man that I immediately emailed Krissy to tell her, in no uncertain terms, that I wanted to be her best friend. I’ve been known to write gushy fangirl letters from time to time, and this one was no different — and color me thrilled when Krissy wrote back. It’s rare that you meet you someone so talented and kind — and so deserving of success. We met in New York City during this year’s Book Blogger Convention and I adored her as much in person as I had through both her memoir and letters.

Basically, she inspires me — and her book inspires me. So I want to share it with all of you. I will buy one copy of How To Love An American Man for a winner randomly chosen from comments on this post, and all you have to do is tell me this: What memory of your grandparents will you never forget? (If you don’t have grandparent recollections to share, no worries; feel free to leave another family memory.)

UPDATE: Krissy has graciously offered to send her book to two winners, so I’m extending the giveaway to 12 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Sept. 6. I’ll randomly choose two winners from the comments on this post and email them.

UPDATE on Sept. 6: Congratulations to Mona and Laura Kay, our randomly-selected winners! Ladies, I’ll be emailing you shortly for your addresses.

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52 thoughts on “Win the book I’m still raving about: ‘How To Love An American Man’

  1. Since I have so many of them, I will go with my oldest memory of my grandther.

    I was four yeats old, I verified this with my mother when she was living!

    My grandfather was a farmer and he used to wear those old fashioned blue jeans. He has John Wayne eyes, forehead, nose, mouth, He looked like an overweight John Wayne. Many years later I found out that he was directly related to him.

    When not working on the farm or the salon (grandmother hated that), he sat in his old rocking chair, smoking a pipe with his favorite brand of tabocco that has the scent of cherry. He would turn on the radio and find a good station with music. Our family visited in the summertime and I always ran to
    granfather or “Pops” to sit on his rocking chair. He always smiled broadly and said “You are the best grand devil that I ever had.” We hugged and I loved him so much.

    Twenty two years later, I was in a bookstore and I smelled Pop’s favorite tabacco again. I tracked it down to a very handsome man. My only regret is that I didn’t ask him the name of the tabacco. I had, I could have put some in a glass jar with a lid and smelled and dreamed of “Pops” whenever I liked.

    • Thank you sharing that lovely story, Carol — it’s amazing how certain smells can really take us back, isn’t it? I can practically smell the tobacco from your descriptions! Maybe you’ll track it down again someday.

  2. While there are many single-moment memories, what I remember most about my grandparents is a composite. The sound of my grandmother as she walked on the linoleum, her homemade lunches and dinners, and my grandfather telling me my favorite bedtime story: how he and my grandmother met. These are the memories I will always look back on fondly, and hope to recreate one day with my own grandchildren.

    • I love your memories, Amy! The sound of my grandma walking around the kitchen is forever emblazoned in my memory, too. The stories of how grandparents met are always so interesting — and how sweet that it was your grandfather telling you that tale.

  3. Thanks for the giveaway 🙂

    My late maternal grandparents lived with us for about a year. My mother wanted them to stay longer but my nana(grandpa) started to feel bored and lonely. He missed India where there was noise and wall-to-wall people. My nani loved it here.

    What I remember most:
    . Their devotion to one another. When my nani was gardening, nana would pull up a chair and sit outside with her.

    . My nana’s addiction to the soap All My Children. He also entered this contest where you watch a show all week and answer questions at the end of the week to enter for a prize. He gave his undivided attention to the show and memorized the plot/characters and was pretty upset when they asked questions about the commercials that were aired. 😀

    . There were a LOT of social get-togethers when they were visiting. Getting ready for the party was a big production and afterwards there was always a detailed discussion/re-cap. My nani was quite the social butterfly and was very popular. She happily accepted dance requests. My nana was bemused by her behavior.

    . Finally, my brother would play practical jokes on my nana and was very amused by his puzzled reaction.

    • Your memories really made me smile, Mona. Love that your nana watched “All My Children” — don’t tell anyone, but my grandpa may or may not have been a fan of “Dawson’s Creek.”

  4. I will never forget my grandma telling me how they have to escape from Poland during the WW II.They had to leave all their things and friends there, but fortunatelly they found a lot of friendly people in the new country and they could call it home in a short while.

    • That’s amazing, Lenna — and definitely a story to be cherished and passed on. How fortunate that your grandparents made it to a new place and had a happy life there.

  5. This book has been on my TBR list for a while, so thank you for the giveaway. I only ever knew my maternal grandparents because my father’s parents died before I was born (or shortly thereafter). Though we lived in a different state, my maternal grandparents (sorry, no cute names, we just called them Grandma and Grandpa) would try to visit every couple of years. We loved that time with them. We would walk to the nearby grocery store with Grandma and pick up ingredients to make her delicious molasses cookies. Then we would help her bake them (and eat them!). It was lots of fun.

    • Why is it that grandmas are always the best bakers, Julie? I swear, it’s in a manual somewhere. My Maw Maw makes the best sugar cookies in the entire world, and even with her recipes, we just can’t recreate them. And my grandma’s cakes are mouthwatering. Those are all memories were cherishing.

  6. I spent about a month each summer with my grandparents growing up. I will always remember how special it made me feel. My grandma was one of those people who never had a cruel word to say about another person. That didn’t mean she didn’t have a razor-sharp wit though – she just somehow used it for good. Over the summer, I always remember lazy afternoons on the front porch (there’s was a cool concrete and brick porch in the city of St. Louis – much different than my suburban Kansas existence). Both of my grandparents made me laugh and helped me feel like I had an important place in the world. I miss them every day!

    This book sounds great. Thanks for sharing it.

    • “Both of my grandparents made me laugh and helped me feel like I had an important place in the world.”

      Wonderful! I spent summers with my grandparents, too, and those are times that helped define me. Your grandparents sounded like great people, and I bet your grandma was a character. 🙂

  7. Oh how lovely!

    When I was very young, my grandparents lived about an hour south of where I grew up, in the house that my mother and aunt grew up in. They were big golfers. Behind the house was huge woods (well, it probably wasn’t that big, it just seemed like it was!. My cousin, who is a year younger than I am, and I would hit golf balls into the woods, and then we would all go and collect them together. There was a big rock that we would race to, and whoever got there first, could hit the golf ball first, once we got back to the backyard….

    It was a silly childish game, but we loved it and my grandparents always indulged us in it. My cousion and I would often spend the night (in our mother’s old room!) and the next morning, we’d climb into bed with my grandparents and read to them!

    This is my earliest memory of them, and I love it!

    • That’s awesome, Lexi, and I can relate to the games we played with grandparents who were only too happy to indulge us! My sister and I were constantly trying to get my grandma to draw princesses in castles, because we always thought she drew the best princesses. And our elaborate games involving tree roots, volcanoes and magic kingdoms somehow involved roping Grandma into “saving” us from certain danger.

  8. As the hurricane approached this weekend, I was thinking about a visit from my grandparents when I was about five-years-old:

    A huge rainstorm came up, and the thunder was so loud it rattled the windowpanes. Frightened, I curled up next to my Grandpa on the sofa. He put his arm around me and said, “Don’t worry, Pumpkin, it’s just the angels bowling up there in heaven. That one sounded like a strike!” I always remember that during thunderstorms!

  9. I wrote about this on my blog recently, but my Grandma lived with us and my parents worked long hours at our family owned restaurant and tavern so she was like a second Mom to me. My mom would put me to bed in my room and I would sneak out and go to my Grandma’s room and get in bed with her. Her little TV would be playing or she would hum opera songs while she was reading a book until I fell asleep.To this day, I still can’t fall asleep without the TV on. I have so many amazing memories of her. She was a very amazing lady.

    I spent a lot of time with my Grandpa on my Mom’s side, he would always play us polkas and bring us Cherikee Red Pop. He was gruff and cranky except with us kids, we loved helping him with projects in his garage. He was always tinkering with something and teaching us a long the way.

    I miss them both very much, but they both were such a huge part of who I am today.

    -@iheartreading

    • Polka music, singing grandmas and grandfathers in garages — I really relate, Jenn! Your grandparents sounded like wonderful people — and similar to my own. It’s a comfort to know that the people we love and who have shaped us live on through the men and women we are today. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  10. I will never forget how my Papa used to stop me every time I tried to twist the tops off my Oreos and get a knife to carefully slice through the cookie sandwich so the stuffing remained perfect on one side of the cookie. Every time I eat Oreos I think of him. RIP

  11. My memory of my grandparents I will never forget is all the times we went shopping together and playing Bingo. Please enter me in contest. I would Love to read this book.

    • You got it, Victoria! And nothing beats shopping together. My grandparents used to take the grandkids to the bookstore at least once a week in the summer, and that was always a highlight for us!

  12. Pop has been getting more difficult in the later years, although he’s always been difficult in my memory. When I took my husband up to meet Grammy & Pop, a few months after our wedding in 2008, Husband blew everybody away. He shared the romance of our relationship with Pop, and Pop reminisced about courting and marrying Grammy – telling stories most of us present had never heard (quite a bit of extended family). He told war stories which Husband appreciated; Pop hadn’t had a fresh audience for them in years. Pop actually teared up; we all did, I think, at one point or another. Watching them bond was so gratifying for me – of course Husband is a big hit throughout the family – but seeing Husband appreciate Pop in a (for me) fresh, new way really brought a lot of feelings to the surface. It was a magical day. We went back to see him and Grammy again last month (he’s 90 years old now! and still 6’4″!) and the spark is still there. What a joy, and what a gift for Husband to have given ALL of us.

    • Absolutely love this story! It’s such an overwhelming feeling when you see your significant other integrate into the family, and this is a fabulous memory. Thank you so much for sharing.

  13. Ya know, I think I would love to be entered. The way this book moved you reminds me of how I was moved by Life From Scratch. A book I believe (if memory serves me correctly) you brought to my attention. SO please enter me 🙂

    A favorite memory: Christmas with my abuelita (granny in Spanish) was always special. I remember one Christmas, I woke up early and she woke up with me to gaze at the tree. She was always able to see the magic along with me. To sit with me and for the time being be my age and stop and smell the roses. That was always something I loved about her. She continues to be a devoted family woman that calls each of her grandbabies on their birthday to sing them Happy Birthday in Spanglish.

    • Yes — I loved Life From Scratch, Juju! It definitely moved me, too, and was one I really related to as a blogger. It’s rare to find a book that clicks so well with me.

      Love your Christmas memories, too — and how special that your abuelita could share that holiday magic with you. She sounds like a lovely lady!

  14. One of my favorite memories of my mom’s parents took place one Thanksgiving. We were all packed in at my aunt and uncle’s house. Every available space was taken up for sleeping — beds, couches, the floor. My cousins had given Granny and Grandpa their room, which had bunk beds. Instead of unbunking the beds to each have their own bed, they said “Oh, don’t go to the trouble, we’ll just share.” And the two of them snuggled up in the twin bed. I love the memory of my grandparents as in-love as a couple of teenagers.

  15. My grandma is the coolest 83 year old that I know. She is EXACTLY what I want to be like when I am her age.

    One of the best memories I have of her goes all the way back to when I was in preschool (I’m 32 now…). She used to pick me up from preschool on certain days, and we would go back to her house and hang out for the afternoon until my mom and dad were finished with work. On very special days, she would take out her “Shirley Temple dishes” and I would get to eat off of them. The dishes consisted of a small pitcher, bowl and cup with Shirley Temple’s face on them. I always felt so grown-up being able to pour my own milk into the cup.

    Four years ago, I bought my house, and my grandma gave me the Shirley Temple dishes to keep. It was the BEST. I’m so excited that I have them, and though poor Shirley’s face has faded, those dishes will ALWAYS remind me of those special times when it was just my grandma and me, hanging out. (By the way, I am the oldest of 10 grandchildren on that side of the family…I know I can’t be the only grandchild who used those dishes. However, my grandma knew how special they were to me…)

    • This is awesome, Kelly, and made me think of my grandma’s ice cream bowls! They’re these very vintage-looking red crystal bowls that she would use to serve my sister and I late-night snacks while we watched “I Love Lucy.” The Shirley Temple dishes have a good home with you!

  16. My sister & I spent the Summer with our Grandparents when we were children. It was pure magic. We explored the farm & had the best time ever.
    Our Grandparents said they had a wonderful time too.
    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

    • Spending time on the farm would have been wonderful, Mary! I also spent summers with my Maw Maw and my maternal grandparents, which were some of my favorite times. You’re all entered — thanks for sharing!

  17. Wow, your review really makes me want to read this book!

    Here’s one memory of my paternal grandmother, who was forced to leave her home twice during WWII when Russia took over Finnish Carelia and the habitants were evacuated:

    My grandmother was in great shape both physically and mentally until the day she had a sudden cerebral hemorrhage. She then spent her last months in a hospital, not saying a word or reacting to anything much. While she was in the hospital I had a very beautiful dream, in which she took me to see her lost Carelia, all those green forests and everything. It was absolutely stunning. And she was so happy there.

    I hope that was where she really spent her last months, in her head, and that she was not aware of the hospital surroundings.

    • I hope she was at peace, Karoliina; she sounds like a very brave woman. Dreams have a way of bringing us solace — and I do believe they’re often a way to slip into another world. Thank you for sharing your memory.

  18. That’s so hard. I lost my grandmother about 5 years ago to pancreatic cancer and what would be her 71st birthday is coming up on Sunday so she’s been on my mind a lot recently. I have so many amazing memories of her. One of the things that will stick most with me is how she made sure that we all knew how important family is. That’s such an important lesson!

    The other thing I’ll always remember is her stories. She told the same stories over and over again but would tell them in such a gripping way that we never minded hearing them for a fifth (or fifty-fifth) time!

    abookishaffair(at)gmail(dot)com

    • Sending you a hug, Meg, and thinking of your grandma. Family is very, very important — everything, really! I love listening to my grandparents’ stories, too, especially about how they met and the early days of their marriages. My Maw Maw tells fascinating stories about growing up in Washington, D.C., while my maternal grandparents have so many interesting things to say about Pennsylvania and Las Vegas in the 1950s. I can never get enough of those conversations!

  19. I have so many memories of my grandparents. Their love for each other was so incredible, and they did so many fun things with my brother and I, and they were just such a joy to be around.

    But the one thing I’ll never forget was the way their house smelled. It was like this amazing scent of freshly brewed coffee and cinnamon, mixed with my grandma’s perfume. Anyway, there was a time – before I started drinking coffee – that I would brew it just so my house so my house would smell like theirs. Seriously, I loved the smell before I ever loved the taste.

    They’d drink coffee ALL day. And I remember my Papa would always down a cup right before bed. I finally said to him, “How can you drink that, and then go sleep without any problem?”

    He looked at me and said, “You know Mandi, when you get to be my age, you need the jolt just to make it up the stairs.”

    I cannot even describe how much I miss him and my Nana.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share this!

    • Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories, Amanda! I know exactly what you mean about smell. My paternal grandmother is an excellent baker and the smell of sugar cookies instantly makes me think of her. At my grandparents’ home, something delicious is always simmering on the stove. The aromas of traditional Polish food bring my grandma to mind instantly.

  20. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see my own grandparents much growing up. I instead had “adoptive” grandparents. There were several in my life, but the two that remained a fixture in my life for decades were Grandma and Grandpa Shively. What I remember most is when they would come to visit, and they would take me out to eat, and Grandpa would stand me in the doorway of the car and let me kiss him on his bald head! I called him “Grandpa Don”.

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    • The family we make ourselves can often be just as important as those we’re linked to by blood, that’s for sure. Your adoptive grandparents sound awesome, and I’m sure they treasured the time with you as much as you did with them.

  21. I remember every summer getting to visit my grandparents at their cabin in Wisconsin. They had a place near a lake. I remember how much I loved it there and just being around them (they spent most of the year in FL). I loved sitting with her on the beach breaking fresh green beans in half, walking along the pier with my grandpa holding his big rough callused hand. I loved how they introduced me as their baby girl Laurie (nobody else called me Laurie). I remember going to a dance/party and my grandpa teaching me how to dance. I always felt special and loved by them. Funny hadn’t thought about these things in a long time…

    • Those are lovely memories, Laura, and I can envision you all sitting on the lakeshore now! Grandparents have a way of making you feel special in a way that no one else can. Thank you for sharing!

  22. The first thing that popped into my mind when reading the question was my grand-mother’s smile. Once I moved out on my own I only got to see her about twice a year, and every time I would go see her, she would welcome me with the brightest smile in the world. No matter how bad the day was going, it was a contagious smile, you know? My grand-mother had 40+ grand-kids, not counting the great-grand-kids, but that smile always made me feel like I was the only one. And now I need some tissues, cause I miss her terribly! I really wish I would have been born when she was younger to have the chance to know her better now. ❤

    • I know exactly what you mean about a grandmother’s smile, Kay, and I’m sure she was a lovely woman! It’s striking to me how many of us have commented on our grandparents making us feel special. That’s just their way. Hugs!

  23. I love when people we think of as celebrities are super nice, regular people!

    I was super close to my maternal Grandma and fortunately spent a lot of time with her! I have so many, close to my heart memories of her. I have to say one of my most cherished is the summer I really fell in love with reading. I was staying with her and she bought me a copy of Black Beauty and TomSawyer. She helped me read both books in their entirety. She was patient, supportive and loving all the way through. I definitely credit her with opening my eyes to the worlds of imagination and reading.

    • That’s awesome, Sheery — my grandparents really encouraged our love of reading, too. I also remember the summer I fell in love with reading and the way my grandma would laugh as I tore through another book!

  24. My grandparents live in a totally different country than me so I didn’t get to see them a lot. In my maternal grandparents’ home there was a table and the tabletop was covered with photos and postcards my grandparents had accumulated in their life time covered with glass. I remember spending time just sitting across from my grandfather as he did the books and then when the ice cream man he’s hand me money and the rest of the kids at my grandparents house (my cousins, his other grandchildren, the neighbor’s children, ect) so that we could get some cheese ice cream (it’s a popular flavor in the Philippines, it’s an acquired taste).

    dreamsofstars [at] gmail [dot] com

    • I’d be up for trying cheese ice cream, Erin! And it’s funny the little things we remember from our grandparents’ homes. At my paternal grandma’s house, I can still see the little frog statue that used to sit in the corner of the yard.

  25. My Grandpa died when I was six in a car wreck where he and my Grandma where hit head-on by a drunk driver. My grandmother survived some how, and I was forever grateful. I remember his deep voice and sitting in his favorite red leather chair smoking a pipe and smiling at me as I rubbed the ornate carvings in the wooden arms of the chair.

    When I was four and on my Grandma’s farm during the hot summer, she worked hard out in her vegetable garden. I went into the bath room and climbed up on the bath tub and looked out the window. I seen my grandmother laying very still and face down out there. I got down and got a wet wash cloth and walked out there. When I put it on her face she immediately came to (don’t ask me how I knew to do this…I have no clue). I helped her crawl over to a huge shade tree and she eventually recovered. She always loved to tell the story of how I saved her life.

    My grandmother had passed away in 1967 when I was just a 16 year old boy. In 2003 I was driving my mother, aunt, and uncle around the small town in Missouri where we were all from. They decided to go to the cemetery to visit the graves of my Grandma and Grandpa. We were all talking and jabbering and it was a beautiful day when we pulled up. I was expecting them to get very emotional, but to my surprise…it was me that did instead. As soon as I seen their grave stones it all came flooding back to me and I fell to my knees and cried and cried.

  26. I am sad that I am just finding this blog! I love coming across new books, especially personal memoirs. I guess I’ll just have to go buy it on my own.

    -C.H.

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