EACH WEEK IN my immigration-literature graduate seminar, we examine one book that focuses on the immigrant experience. So far, we have read about Norwegian, Italian, and Japanese experiences. Our upcoming texts center the experiences of Polish Jews, Koreans, Nigerians, Senegalese, Mexicans, and Muslims, among many others. Faith plays a central role in each book we’ve read so far, both fiction and nonfiction. In each text, the matriarch of the family brings the faith of her mother country into the United States. The matriarchs are themselves the texts for the survival of the faith in these families.
In my family, my grandmother was the compass for our faith traditions. We grew up Catholic and later became nondenominational. We explored many expressions of faith before we found one that fit. As a family, we retained many of our Catholic traditions, because they are woven into who we are. It’s a complicated relationship, and one that we greatly value.