Christine Naman: “Doing what I can live with guides all of my decisions”

Doing what I can live with guides all of my decisions. When I lay in bed at night and replay the day, I want to be able to give myself a hug and be proud of me. As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure […]

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Doing what I can live with guides all of my decisions. When I lay in bed at night and replay the day, I want to be able to give myself a hug and be proud of me.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Pisera Naman.

Bestselling author Christine Pisera Naman is a wife to a beautiful man named Peter and a mother to three fantastic kids named Jason, Natalie, and Trevor. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, which she does poorly, painting, again poorly, and volunteering at her local hospital which hopefully, she does well. Her works include Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11, Faces of Hope: Ten Years Later, Faces of Hope at Eighteen, Caterpillar Kisses, Christmas Lights, The Nine Days, and The Believers. About Natalie is her heart poured onto paper.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I had a very traditional, what I would call average childhood. A father who was an engineer, a mother who was a homemaker and two older brothers. I was shy and quiet, happy enough and honestly, excelled in nothing, existing very averagely in every way. We were family-oriented, Italian, Catholics. Life consisted of school during the week, church on Sundays, trips to visit grandparents and treats at Dairy Queen on special occasions.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

When I first read this question, my initial response was no. Then after some thought, I realized that yes indeed there was. The book was “The Outsiders” by S.E Hinton. But it wasn’t the contents of the book that inspired me or changed my life. Even though I think it is a great book. But instead, what inspired me, was the fact that S.E. Hinton was a seventeen-year-old girl who wrote this amazing book that so many people read. I don’t think that I ever entertained the thought of expressing myself in that way. To me, the fact that she dared to take pen to paper and write was intriguing to me. And it was, because I was so insecure and kind of backward, one of the first times I ever thought “Maybe that could be me too”.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I don’t know how funny or interesting this is. It was more like intensely humiliating. To the point that I still get embarrassed, hot and flushed when I think of it. It was my very first radio interview for my very first book. I was trying to be casual and confident and thought “No big deal, I can do this”. The very first question of my very first interview was “What part of Pennsylvania are you from?” I froze. I completely and totally froze. And for the life of me could not think of where in Pennsylvania Pittsburgh was. Now I have lived here my entire life, so I should have been able to come up with something. Instead, I was totally blank. And actually, began to mutter “I don’t know” over and over again. The interviewer thought I was being an obstinate smart aleck and proceeded to beat me up with a bunch of other questions. Needless to say, it was a very short interview. Pittsburgh is in western Pennsylvania. And I live exactly ten miles east of the city. And I will never, ever forget that.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Thank you for asking this question. About Natalie is simply my heart poured out onto paper. The messages in the book are very basic. To the loved ones of addicts: “You are not alone”. To the addicts themselves: “We have hope for you”. The messages are love and compassion and never giving up. I want to spread this message. Because if we are going to tame this beast of addiction, I believe that these need to be our basics. I want to express that addicts are not monsters or are any ethnicity, socio-economic class, age group or anything else. Addicts are all of us. And they are our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, the little girl in the pretty dress at church and the little boy you enjoyed seeing run around the neighborhood. I want to give back more than anything. Not just by spreading understanding, tolerance and erasing some of the stigma attached to addiction, but by donating part of the proceeds to Health Care as well.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Hopefully, there are many interesting stories in the book. It would be difficult for me to choose one specifically. But the stories that seem to resonate with a lot of people are when I recount the basic emotions that one goes through when finding out that you are firmly planted somewhere where you never dreamed that you would be. The day that I found out that Natalie was an addict was an average, ordinary day with meatloaf in the oven. I was caught flat-footed and immediately went into denial mode then throughout the next several weeks passed through all of the other many emotions of grief. This may sound dramatic but it’s common and true. After denial I went on to anger, bargaining, depression then finally landing on acceptance where I could finally begin to solve the problem that we clearly had. Many people seem to relate to this and tell me stories in which they have reacted the same way to challenges in their lives.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I always believed that I would write about my daughter Natalie and our struggles. But honestly, I always put it off. Thinking that I would wait for our happy ending. While Natalie is in a good place right now, and I believe she will stay there, we still are somewhat in the middle of the journey. And maybe in some ways we always will be. But my “aha moment” was waking up one day and realizing that so many people are living in the middle of the world of addiction. They have not lost or won. But instead, are fighting the fight. And I thought “Why don’t I reach all of those people?” “After all, it is where I am.” Unfortunately, it is where so many people are. I wanted to reach out to them. People like me.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

It was right after About Natalie had been published. If you would have asked me, I would have doubted that anyone had even had time to read it yet. I was having breakfast in my favorite local diner. And a woman came up to me with the book in her hands and tears in her eyes and simply said “Thank you. Thank you for writing this. Two years ago, my son died of an overdose. And someone had to tell our story.” I loved the way that she said “our story”. This meant so much to me because I always wanted About Natalie not to be just my and Natalie’s story. But instead, I hoped that it would resonate with others too. This made me feel like I was on the right track. This woman’s words meant more to me than I could have ever dreamed of.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Of course, when it comes to addiction there is so much that each of us can do. One thing that I would like to say is that I believe that all of the people that I have met along this journey (and there are many), have been there for the right reasons. They are all trying to help in their individual ways with their own talents, knowledge, skills and areas of expertise. But one area related to the problems with addiction where we sometimes, fall a little short, is with lessening and erasing the stigma attached to it; and offering more help and less punishment.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I would define leadership with the help of a poem that I read on a greeting card when I was very young and that I never forgot. It is “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;

If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

I would substitute the word “Leader” for the word “Man”.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Before you take your first interview, know where you live!

But seriously, be genuine, manners never go out of style. Sometimes the old-fashioned way of doing things is the better way and do what you can live with in all things professional and personal. And don’t take yourself too seriously. You are important but not that important.

There have been times when I have looked at and admired someone else and foolishly tried to copy them. Not only have I probably appeared silly, but it obviously never worked out. While I do always try to learn from people and adopt their better qualities into my life, ultimately you have to be yourself. Being true to me is how I have discovered my own gifts.

Please, Thank You, and a hand-written thank you note go a long way. Not because they are fake in any way. But instead, because they are personal. They are not a generic gesture or a formality but are specific and heartfelt.

Years ago, I got my first book contract the old-fashioned way. I typed my own manuscript, developed my own proposal, licked my own stamps and landed a deal with Random House.

Doing what I can live with guides all of my decisions. When I lay in bed at night and replay the day, I want to be able to give myself a hug and be proud of me.

Every time I have wandered from any of these rules, I have had less success and fallen short of my goals. And even if things don’t work out as I wish while following these rules, I am happier with myself at the end.

I’ve always found that it is while living by these basic principles that I have found my most success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Some stranger somewhere still remembers you because you were kind to them when no one else was”.

Trace Frauenfelder/Human Kind Acts of Kindness.

It is relevant because I would love to be that person for that stranger because so many have been that person for me. I believe firmly in paying it forward and this is a way to do that.

I am a big fan of Saint Therese of Lisieux. I even visited her shrine in Paris. Saint Therese believed in living her life doing little acts of kindness for people. I believe with my whole heart that the small gestures, the smile, the pat on the back, the holding of the hand make a big difference.

This is the way that I want to live my life. So, I try to do that little bit of extra for the people that I cross paths with.

If people remember me as a person who offered them kindness, then I will have succeeded.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

“Oprah ! Oprah! Oprah! Hands down. In my head we are already really good friends. My dream is breakfast or lunch where she tells me that my book is on her night table.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My readers can follow my work and reach me at and by email at [email protected]

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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