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Category Archives: family

“I wondered if the American penchant for self-invention was somehow related to the seminal immigrant experience, in which one had to renounce the past, give up the old culture, language, history, religion, even one’s birth name, and replace the old self with American ideals, language, a new name and new ways.

“A major aim in writing Accordion Crimes was to show the powerful government and social pressures on foreigners that forced them into the so-called melting pot. The social pressures were enormous, and the cost of assimilation was staggering for the immigrants—their lives were often untimely truncated. They did not belong, they were ridiculed outsiders, they worked at the most miserable and dangerous jobs. They gave up personal identification and respect. The successes went to their children, the first generation of American-born. These American children commonly rejected the values, clothing, language, religion, food, music of their parents in their zeal to be 100 percent American.”

– Annie Proulx


“I see him, too. Oh yes, hello little thing. It wasn’t really so long ago when there seemed to me no greater disaster than a baby in the womb, a seed of corruption and an innocent who would be abused even by the very air of his first breath. Go back! Undivide, involute, and shrink back to safety… Still, I listen, and speak. Hello, little one. Let me be the one to tell you it is finally good news again, to be born.”

– Chris Adrian, The Children’s Hospital

“It all comes from me – circles and circles of corruption and regret and depravity, but before it was in me it was in them – my mother and my father. And before it was in them it was in their parents. And I say – and everyone says – I will not put it in my chid, and yet everybody does. I make promises, I keep lists: this and this and this I will surely never do, because I never want to uncover in my child the sort of hatred my parents uncover in me with even the most innocent and benevolent action. But as surely as the moon rises and the sun sets, depravity passes down through the ages, because there is always a gap between who we are and who we should be, and our parents, molested by regret, conceive us under the false hope that we will be better than them, and everything they do, every hug and blow, only makes certain that we never will be.”

– Chris Adrian, The Children’s Hospital

“The reason to have a home is to keep certain people in and everyone else out.”

– Jenny Offill, Dept of Speculation

“Most of those sold in the internal trade were women and children… The children born to a slave wife shared the mother’s disinheritance and belonged entirely to the genealogy of the father. Slave women extended the owner’s lineage without enjoying the privileges or protection entitled to wives supported by their families. Nor did families ever forget who was ‘of the house’ (the slaves absorbed and remade in the line of the master) and ‘of the blood’ (royals possessing legal rights of inheritance and succession).

There were no women in the chief’s inner circle whom I might ask about the rewards of being pretty or about the trials of being a wife. The men had appointed themselves the official custodians of history. Besides, the women never had an afternoon to waste ruminating about history. They didn’t have an hour to spare; they were selling goods in the market or laboring in the fields or carrying pails of water or hauling a load of firewood or washing laundry, the very chores that made the labor of slave women so highly prized. When later I asked the women in town about slavery, they joked, ‘The wife is the true slave.’ ”

– Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother

“My grandparents had left Curacao, a thirty-five-mile stretch of arid land adrift in the Caribbean Sea, vowing to make good in New York and to return home. But as the decades passed, they convinced themselves that it was still too soon, or that the money wasn’t right yet, or that it would be easier to leave the following year.

“Not ready to admit the defeat of their permanent estrangement, they held steadfast to the belief in American opportunity. It was a word they uttered to stave off fear; it consoled them on bad days; it reminded them why they were in the States rather than at home. Opportunity – it was intoned as if it was the consolation they required, as if it repelled prejudice, warded off failure, remedied isolation, and quieted the ache of yearning. It shrouded the past and set their gaze solely on the future.”

– Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother