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Across Generations: Immigrant Families in America

EDITED BY Nancy Foner
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Across Generations
    Book Description:

    Immigrants and their American-born children represent about one quarter of the United States population. Drawing on rich, in-depth ethnographic research, the fascinating case studies in Across Generations examine the intricacies of relations between the generations in a broad range of immigrant groups - from Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa - and give a sense of what everyday life is like in immigrant families.Moving beyond the cliche of the children of immigrants engaging in pitched battles against tradition-bound parents from the old country, these vivid essays offer a nuanced view that brings out the ties that bind the generations as well as the tensions that divide them. Tackling key issues like parental discipline, marriage choices, educational and occupational expectations, legal status, and transnational family ties, Across Generations brings crucial insights to our understanding of the United States as a nation of immigrants.Contributors: Leisy Abrego, JoAnn D'Alisera, Joanna Dreby, Yen Le Espiritu, Greta Gilbertson, Nazli Kibria, Cecilia Menjvar, Jennifer E. Sykes, Mary C. Waters, and Min Zhou.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2846-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Intergenerational Relations in Immigrant Families
    (pp. 1-20)
    Nancy Foner

    Immigration is one of the most pressing issues in the United States. The foreign-born now represent about 13 percent of the nation’s population. Together with their American-born children, this group constitutes nearly a quarter of the United States—more than 65 million people. This is an astonishing figure. If today’s foreign-born and their children were to form a country, it would have approximately twice the population of Canada and slightly more than that of France or Italy.

    The numbers are critical, but their implications are even more significant. Much has been written about immigrants in the labor market, in the...

  5. 1 Conflict, Coping, and Reconciliation: Intergenerational Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families
    (pp. 21-46)
    Min Zhou

    Relations between parents and children in Chinese immigrant families are characterized by intense bicultural and intergenerational conflicts.¹ In the United States, most children of Chinese immigrants live in two-parent, nuclear families, with a smaller number in extended or transnational families. In these various immigrant households, a modified version of Confucian values emphasizing filial piety, education, hard work, and discipline serve as normative behavioral standards for socializing the younger generation. Many immigrant parents feel they have sacrificed for their children’s better future in America. They have clearly articulated expectations that their children will attain the highest levels of educational and occupational...

  6. 2 Emotions, Sex, and Money: The Lives of Filipino Children of Immigrants
    (pp. 47-71)
    Yen Le Espiritu

    Focusing on emotions, sex and money, this chapter calls attention to the ways in which the lives of Filipino children of immigrants pivot around rigid and often contradictory expectations over the meaning of sexuality and success. This is not news: many scholars have detailed the tensions between immigrant parents and their children over perceived (im)proper sexual behaviors and (in)appropriate achievement standards.¹ However, unlike most previous works, this chapter does not approach emotions, sex, and money as mere objects of study, but rather as sources of knowledge that elucidate not only the conditions of immigrant life, but also the conditions under...

  7. 3 Spare the Rod, Ruin the Child? First- and Second-Generation West Indian Child-Rearing Practices
    (pp. 72-97)
    Mary C. Waters and Jennifer E. Sykes

    In the early 1990s, when one of us interviewed West Indian immigrants to New York City, she asked them if there was anything about the United States that surprised or shocked them when they first arrived.¹ She expected many to mention the extent of racial discrimination in the United States, the huge size and impersonal relations of New York City, and even the cold weather that is a terrible shock to people who have lived all of their lives in the tropics. And some people did mention these issues. But she was very surprised at the number of parents who...

  8. 4 “Marry into a Good Family”: Transnational Reproduction and Intergenerational Relations in Bangladeshi American Families
    (pp. 98-113)
    Nazli Kibria

    The work of families includes that of intergenerational cultural reproduction—the passing on of traditions and affiliations from one generation to another. Among immigrant families, such work may be especially significant, constituting a critical element of their strategies of survival and adaptation to the receiving society. In this chapter I draw on a qualitative study of Bangladeshi immigrant families in the United States to explore some of the dynamics of cultural reproduction that mark the relations of Bangladeshi immigrant parents and their U.S.-born and/or raised young adult children. I focus in particular on strategies oftransnational reproduction, that is, those...

  9. 5 Images of a Wounded Homeland: Sierra Leonean Children and the New Heart of Darkness
    (pp. 114-134)
    JoAnn D’Alisera

    This essay explores the way in which problematic representations define “Africa” for Sierra Leonean children living in Washington, D.C., and the crisis of identity that ensues for both parents and children.³ In particular, the static image of Africa as a timeless continent teeming with disease and other “horrors” frames it as a new “Heart of Darkness.” While these images at times seem to be defined by contemporary realities (such as AIDS, Ebola, famine, and civil conflict), they nevertheless are deeply connected to constructed images of the past. As Philip Curtin has pointed out, “There is a ‘black legend’ . ....

  10. 6 Caregiving across Generations: Aging, State Assistance, and Multigenerational Ties among Immigrants from the Dominican Republic
    (pp. 135-159)
    Greta Gilbertson

    In this chapter I explore the nature of multigenerational relations among a group of Dominican immigrants in New York City. I examine some of the ways that multigenerational relationships are manifested in transnational contexts and how they change over the life course. In the analysis, I focus on “young old”¹ grandparents’ relations with their foreign-born and U.S.-born children and grandchildren over a period of more than ten years.

    A focus on aging immigrants is important because multigenerational bonds form a vital part of the immigrant’s social world. Most extant literature highlights the relationship between parents and children but ignores the...

  11. 7 Parents and Children across Borders: Legal Instability and Intergenerational Relations in Guatemalan and Salvadoran Families
    (pp. 160-189)
    Cecilia Menjívar and Leisy Abrego

    Immigration laws and the legal statuses they confer on immigrants powerfully shape family life for Guatemalans and Salvadorans. To a great degree, laws induce lengthy separations across borders, notable adjustment periods following reunifications, and stratified access to resources for individual members who reside together in the United States. Each of these situations is fraught with difficult, often painful, challenges that add to the complexities of family life. In this chapter we offer a glimpse into this complicated picture, with a focus on dynamics between parents and children.

    Families throughout the world are experiencing long-term separation across national borders. Limited economic...

  12. 8 Negotiating Work and Parenting over the Life Course: Mexican Family Dynamics in a Binational Context
    (pp. 190-218)
    Joanna Dreby

    Every year, more than 500,000 Mexicans migrate to the United States.¹ Tens of thousands leave children behind in Mexico when they do.² These migrants make an unusual, but common, parenting decision. Taking advantage of the economic disparities between the United States and Mexico, parents move to places, where they can earn more for their human labor, while their children remain in hometowns in Mexico, where the cost of living is low. In this sense, migration is a gamble; by leaving children behind, migrant parents hope to better provide for their children. Their migration represents a sacrifice of the present for...

  13. About the Contributors
    (pp. 219-222)
  14. Index
    (pp. 223-235)