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Across Generations

Immigrant Families in America

Nancy Foner

Publication Year: 2009

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 cliché 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 Menj'var, Jennifer E. Sykes, Mary C. Waters, and Min Zhou.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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p. vii

In editing this volume, I have been fortunate in being able to bring together the work of an outstanding group of scholars whose rich ethnographic research helps to illuminate the complex nature of relations among different generations in immigrant families. I would like to thank all of the authors for their commitment to the book, their responsiveness, ...

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Introduction: Intergenerational Relations in Immigrant Families

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pp. 1-20

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 ...

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1. Conflict, Coping, and Reconciliation Intergenerational Relations in Chinese Immigrant Families

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pp. 21-46

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 ...

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2. Emotions, Sex, and Money: The Lives of Filipino Children of Immigrants

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pp. 47-71

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 ...

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3. Spare the Rod, Ruin the Child? First- and Second- Generation West Indian Child-Rearing Practices

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pp. 72-97

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 ...

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4. “Marry into a Good Family”: Transnational Reproduction and Intergenerational Relations in Bangladeshi American Families

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pp. 98-113

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 ...

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5. Images of a Wounded Homeland: Sierra Leonean Children and the New Heart of Darkness

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pp. 114-134

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 ...

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6. Caregiving across Generations: Aging, State Assistance, and Multigenerational Ties among Immigrants from the Dominican Republic

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pp. 135-159

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 ...

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7. Parents and Children across Borders Legal: Instability and Intergenerational Relations in Guatemalan and Salvadoran Families

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pp. 160-189

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 ...

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8. Negotiating Work and Parenting over the Life Course: Mexican Family Dynamics in a Binational Context

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pp. 190-218

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, ...

About the Contributors

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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780814728468
E-ISBN-10: 0814728464
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814727713
Print-ISBN-10: 0814727719

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 429899242
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Across Generations

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Immigrant families -- United States -- Social conditions.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration
  • Families -- United States.
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