Memories of Belonging: Descendants of Italian Migrants to the United States, 1884-Present
Christa Wirth, University of Zürich
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.