Monday, August 23, 2010


Aside from the normal curiosity about what my daughter will be like - her sense of humor, her likes and dislikes, her personality - I wonder about my daughter's identity.  That is, how will she identify herself?  I suppose that depends in large part on where she spends most of her childhood and what we tell her she is.

On her father's side, she a first generation American - something that many Americans cling to as a badge of honor, a nod to our immigrant heritage and our need to find a culture aside from our own.  On her mother's side, via her grandfather and great-grandmother, she is second generation American, from a different origin than the first.  Will she celebrate either heritage?  In what context and to what extent?

She was born in a census year.  I identified her as racially Caucasian and ethnically Hispanic, English and I honestly can't remember what else. 

She'll never know her Italian war bride great grandmother, but will she feel an affinity for North Beach? Will she love Rome like I love Rome.  Will the Italian language sound comforting to her?  She won't hear it regularly growing up.  For her, will and English accent sound like family like spoken Italian sounded to me?

If her school has a heritage day, which aspect of her background will she choose to represent?  Will she be able to convince a largely doubting America that English is also a culture with strange traditions and traditional attributes that can be identified and explained?  Or will she assume she's just white.  The majority.  An absence of culture?  Will she ever meet her Mexican American relatives?  Will she ever hear a Tio call her mija?

And how might any of that affect her personality?  Is talking with one's hands an Italian cultural attribute or is it encoded in her genes?  Will she be apologetic and polite like an Englishwoman or a bit more brash and bossy like an American girl?

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