Vernacular Voices and the Preservation of the Spirit
As the only American-born child in a family of immigrants, my father grew up in a culture whose code word for moving through mainstream America was Omerta: silence. Don’t trust outsiders, my father said. Tend your own garden, and keep your family stories to yourself. As an attorney, he said, stay away from lawyers. He hated fusses of any kind, and lawyers, he knew, loved to sow dissension. His family left southern Italy as part of the great migration of the early twentieth century, because they couldn’t survive there economically. And they were seen as inferior to northern Europeans because of their dark skin, their association with the Mafia, their suspicion of American schools, and their resistance to giving up their native tongue.