Silvia Dinale

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My parents came to the US from Italy almost by chance. My father had completed medical school in Padua and Rome, and my mother was working as a journalist in Rome. They were engaged and had very little money. Through a recommendation by a family friend, my mother got a job offer to be a visiting instructor in the Italian department at Smith College. After they married, my father was frustrated by the Italian medical system, and they had a chance to move to Massachusetts, where he became an anesthesiologist, and my mother a professor at Smith. In many ways we weren't a classic Italian immigrant family because my parents didn't come to the US because of financial need or political persecution, but in so many other ways we were. Our family culture was not the culture all around us. Growing up for me was a process of trying to figure out how people behaved, what was "normal" and what was "strange" to the children and parents around me. My sister and I grew up speaking perfect English and perfect Italian - but it was the nonverbal language of assumed behaviors that was always a challenge. I feel deep sympathy for all the immigrants who come to the US and have to walk the line between keeping their culture of origin and working to adapt. I see how much they enrich, give life and new dimension to their new country, and how much they contribute.