The fault of memory: “Southern Italy” in the Imagination of Immigrants and the Lives of Their Children in Italian Harlem, 1920-1945

Robert A. Orsi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Conflict in immigrant communities between parents and children over the right way to live is cast in the idioms of geography. Immigrants tell their children stories about the place they left as a display of their deepest values and understanding of the world. This article explores the nature of this interaction in New York's largest Italian community, Italian Harlem, during a period of significant intergenerational tension. Most scholars of Italian America have suggested that the younger generation turned away from the traditions of their parents in favor of American styles and values. The article challenges this notion of tradition, maintaining instead that the articulation of a “tradition” is a complex cultural process which does not discover, but creates, the past in response to the needs and dilemmas of the present. “Southern Italy” was presented to younger Italian-Americans in such a way as to exclude them. An understanding of this often bitter intergenerational tension must be integrated into histories of the Italian-American family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Family History
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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