I think growing up up at any age is tough for anyone, but when you add the fact that you're growing up as a first generation Italian American it makes it even harder. (I'm sure as any first generation culture.) I read about other peoples experiences as growing up first generation and I always look for common connections, questions and experiences, because it helps to realize I'm not alone when trying to figure out who I really am.
If you look at stories written by other authors or bloggers, for instance Justin Catanoso, where he writes in his book, "My Cousin, The Saint," it describes his journey as a second generation Italian American. The book reveals his quest to identify with his ancestors and his feelings of cultural identity.
I feel cultural identity is a very tricky thing, because if you are born here in America, then you're American right? But if we factor in our strong Italian cultures and traditions it leaves us with a very large question on how or which culture to identify with more.
You know growing up as a kid in elementary school, I would always think I would put on my American face when I spoke to my friends, teachers, or whoever, but the minute I stepped off the playground from school and went home, I was more of the Italian kid, doing and practicing all of my Italian traditions, which included speaking in Italian.
It was an interesting factor to accept and understand my own cultural identity. As I got older, it became easier and I knew how to mesh the cultures and not feel so out of place when it came to doing mainstream American things. For example, going to college was a big deal. I remember learning how to find the right colleges and visiting them. I then had to explain to my parents that American kids go to college all over the United States and that living there was normal.
Every step and part of my life has been an incredible learning experience. I did go through many cultural conflicts as a first generation Italian American, but learning how to figure out the two parts of my culture helped me in becoming more aware of my own identity.
Now I think to myself and to you out loud, that as Italian Americans, we are extremely lucky because we really do have the best of both worlds.