Memories of Belonging: Descendants of Italian Migrants to the United States, 1884-Present


Memories of Belonging is a three-generation oral-history study of the offspring of southern Italians who migrated to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1913.
Supplemented with the interviewees’ private documents and working from U.S. and Italian archives, Christa Wirth documents a century of transatlantic migration, assimilation, and later-generation self-identification. Her research reveals how memories of migration, everyday life, and ethnicity are passed down through the generations, altered, and contested while constituting family identities.

The fact that not all descendants of Italian migrants moved into the U.S. middle class, combined with their continued use of hyphenated identities, points to a history of lived ethnicity and societal exclusion. Moreover, this book demonstrates the extent of forgetting that is required in order to construct an ethnic identity.

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Christa Wirth has taught at Harvard University and is currently teaching in the History Department at the University of Zurich. She has published articles on migration, including "Memory and Migration, Research" in The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, Volume IV, Immanuel Ness (ed.) (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, pp. 2158-2164).
"it is a nearly irreplaceable book for classes in research methodology, oral history, and immigration history". Susanna Garroni, in H-Net Reviews, June 2021.
Acknowledgements ... ix
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables ... xi
Family Tree ... xiii

Introduction ... 1
1 Oral History Methodology and Networks of Memory ... 48
2 Transnational Migration Networks: The Paese in the Rising Global Economy ... 81
3 Memories of Everyday Life I: Hard Work and Family Life ... 115
4 Memories of Everyday Life II: Rural, Urban, and Suburban Environments ... 160
5 Memories of Italianness: Pride, Prejudice, and Consumption ... 188
6 Memories of Elvira and Giovanni Soloperto: In the Shadows of Memory and Dante’s Divine Comedy ... 251
7 Memories of the American Dream: Migration, Assimilation, and the Homeland ... 266
Conclusion ... 308

Epilogue: Italian Americans as the Poster Children of the Immigrant Paradigm? ... 316

Appendix ... 321
Bibliography ... 357
Index ... 404
All interested in global migrations, memory studies, oral history, and 20th century U.S. history.
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