Adria Bernardi grew up in Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, but her parents were raised in Highwood, and it was that blue-collar immigrant town that left its mark on her. She studied history in college and worked as a reporter at Chicago's City News Bureau in the 80s. She married, worked for UPI, and eventually moved east with her husband. In 1990 she published Houses With Names, an elegant history of the Highwood of her grandparents, writing that it sat on the North Shore like "a tiny semiprecious stone set in the middle of a dazzling diamond cluster." It was a glimpse of things to come: over the next ten years, while her family grew to include two children, she published essays, short stories, and translations, and prepared other work that's being released this year to impressive reviews. Her first novel, The Day Laid on the Altar, came out this summer. Set in the 16th-century Italy of Titian, it won the Bakeless Fiction Prize. University of Chicago Press will publish Adventures in Africa, her translation of a short story collection by contemporary Italian writer Gianni Celati, later this month. And last week saw the release of her own short story collection In the Gathering Woods. Author Frank Conroy, who selected it as the winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, had this to say: "In this highly original work, Adria Bernardi daringly takes on the subject of human survival through time itself. The exquisite language calls very little attention to itself on the surface while quietly seducing the reader with its deep beauty. In the Gathering Woods resembles nothing I've read before." Bernardi will read from her work at 7:30 PM Tuesday, November 14, at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington in Evanston (847-866-0300). It's free.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Van Liew.