Italian American Folklore

8 04 2010

Coming from a family that immigrated to this country, assimilation has always been a subject on my mind. For those who live or grow up in ethnic enclaves, the question always arises as to how one becomes integrally connected to the societal whole. This is not a question of “if”, but a question of “when” and “how”. Perhaps most interestingly to me, I have always wondered what the process was of making a specific ethnic group, such as the Italians, into your basic run-of-the-mill WASP’s that have last names ending in vowels.

Frances Malpezzi and William Clements wrote a book entitled Italian American Folklore: Proverbs, Songs, Games, Folktales, Foodways, Superstitions, Folk Remedies, and More. The title pretty much sums up the book. In a lot of ways, the book is unique in that it shows “Old World” traditions in the state of transition and decline. How does a culture that has existed unchanged for centuries alter itself when faced with a new language, a new political order, and a new societal ethos? And do such conditions in the end lead to the inevitable decline of that cultural identity?
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