My grandfather, Lorenzo Scinto, came to America as a little kid. And the America that he lived in hated Italians. If you've done some research on Italians in America at the turn of the century, you know that. And so he grew up wanting to be seen as an American, not an Italian. Of course there were things that he couldn't change, such as his swarthy good looks, his need to shave his "five o'clock shadow" by noon, and his taste for spaghetti. But culturally, he did everything that he could.
I never knew my grandfather, but I understand that no one would have ever suspected that he was Italian by how he acted. He spoke absolutely perfect English. He went by the name of Jack. He married a non-Italian woman, and converted from Catholicism to Presbyterianism. My parents remember him being upset with his parents who never learned English. He would tell them, "you're in America now, speak English!"
My vague memories of Italian relatives, which we didn't hang around with much, was pretty stereotypical of Italians. They were short, swarthy, people. They loved spaghetti, and pizza. They joked around a lot and called each other the slang names that Italians were called. No, I'm not going to write them here, on the internet. And I remember a bumper-sticker on a car that said "Mafia Staff Car". Being Italian seemed to imply that you were connected with the Mafia, so they joked about it.
Nowadays, of course, being Italian is fashionable, and has been pretty much so since the after World War II, when Italian-Americas were finally seen as true Americans, by fighting against the Axis Powers, which included Italy.
I sometimes think about my grandfather, and how an Italian managed to blend in with a small town in northern Minnesota. It couldn't have been easy for him, and I'm sure that he dreamed of a day when his descendants would not be hated as Italians.
Pictured above: left to right, my grandfather Lorenzo (Jack) Scinto, my mom, my Grandmother Marcellaine (nee Larochelle) and my Uncle Bob Scinto.