Family stories show immigrants are not all melting in that pot

11/22/05

Published in the latest issue of Family Process, the study confirms that among the newest immigrants, transnationalism is replacing the "melting pot" dynamic of the United States. The study, conducted by a third-generation American Fordham University professor, whose grandparents came from Sicily, and three "transnational" undergraduate students whose parents came, respectively, from Cuba, Greece and Russia, describes how family stories told by new immigrants and their American-born children help retain affiliation with a country other than the United State, reinforcing this dual identity.

"Families have always told stories, but for those who work professionally with families, family stories seem to have become the DNA of family life," the authors state. Across cultures, the stories told share certain motifs including celebrating and idealizing the country of origin/ethnic group, denigrating past and present "enemies" of the country, and sharing detailed knowledge of the country.

American-born children of immigrant families have, in the past, been intensely assimilationist, and their family stories often reflected the ideology of "the Melting Pot." American-born children of the newer immigrants are more transnational, more likely to be proudly bilingual, and more likely to maintain ties with the family's country of origin themselves. After interviewing twenty men and women who were born in, or whose parents were born in, countries from around the globe, the authors note this development and theorize that is supported by the culture of the United States, which is more accepting than ever of cultural pluralism.

The December issue of Family Process includes a special section on transnationalism and family stories. Along with the article by Stone, Gomez, and Lipnitsky there is the theoretical and clinical commentaries of Celia Falicov, Emotional Transnationalism and Family Identities, and Janine Roberts, Migrating Across Literature, Stories, and Family Therapy. PDFs of all articles in this issue are available to the media. Media wishing to receive PDFs please contact JournalNews@bos.blackwellpublishing.com .

Elizabeth Stone is a professor of English, Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University. She teaches the literature course, "New Wave Immigrant Literature," in which she met her co-authors and has published more than 300 articles for newspapers and magazines. Dr. Stone is available for media questions and interviews.

Erica Gomez, who co-authored this paper as an undergraduate, received her B.A. from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in May 2004, and is now earning a law degree at Fordham Law School. She is the daughter of two Cuban émigrés.

Despina Hotoglou, who co-authored this paper as an undergraduate, received her B.S. from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in May 2004. Her father was born in Greece; her mother, also born in Greece, spent part of her childhood in Australia before returning to Greece, later emigrating to the United States.

Jane Y. Lipnitsky, who co-authored this paper as an undergraduate received her B.A. from Fordham College at Lincoln Cemter in May 2004. She is a Russian Jew whose family left the Soviet Union when she was seven.

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