Happy Italian Heritage Month! Since my novels are relatable stories of my Italian American culture, I want to bring attention to my culture this month as well as yours. The relatable aspect in my writing brings me joy because there are so many universal values and behaviors of humans and it bonds us. We all need (not just want) to feel heard, so finding validation and even inspiration in my quirky yet serious stories is extremely meaningful to me (that’s part of why I love those reviews you leave! Readers commented so much on the relatability that I took notice and now pride myself on it.). So put on your party hat and let’s get down to celebrating.
First things first. Here’s a clarification on culture and heritage:
“Culture is based on what the people create whereas the heritage is what the people inherit by nature, by history, by culture.” – PEDIAA.com
Now, when I think of what it means to be Italian by heritage, so many images come to mind, with food (obviously first!), music, and family time at the top. These elements are part of me, thanks to my family members and not just to genetics of course (it’s culture, as we’ve learned above). They were the ones who cooked the delicious Italian cuisine and blasted the classic Italian musicians’ tunes while we spent time together. Spaghetti and meatballs wouldn’t be nearly as tasty without Frank Sinatra serenading us. I mean, come on!
But seriously, the stories of their immigrant journeys and instilling their tough work ethic and value of education in me as a young child formed me and set me on a path of appreciating my roots as well as wanting to bring a good name to the family. Part of the reason for writing my novels is to honor them—as you may know each book so far as been dedicated to my grandparents (The Difference to my grandpa and The Visitor to my grandma). Recognizing my heritage as part of me has made my life richer, my identity clearer, and has allowed me to carry on traditions from long ago. My books will live beyond my lifetime, meaning the D’Angelo legacy can be eternal! (I know that’s a little exaggerated, but hey, you never know.)
Alright, let’s talk about you. What does your culture mean to you? Have you thought about it? Some people may not be as influenced by their past, so you may not be and that’s A-OK. But if you want to think about it more, I’m here to help. I have some starter questions for you to ponder, as well as examples/suggestions to start the journey into yourself.
- What does culture or heritage mean to you in general?
- (Again) What does your culture mean to you?
- Think of your childhood. What were some family traditions, experiences (holidays, weekly rituals etc…). For example, Sunday dinner is huge in my Italian culture.
- Did your family talk about their upbringing? What do you remember from their stories?
- What values and/or beliefs define you?
- How do you integrate your culture into your life? Would you like to expand on it?
- Look in your closet and bathroom. Does your fashion sense or hair style originate from your culture?
- When you are sick, what action do you take? Do you go to a traditional Western medical doctor, a holistic expert, or maybe handle it yourself, if possible?
- No idea where to start with the brainstormed info?
- Make an identity graph, manually or digitally. See the example below, though your name may go in the middle where “identity” is placed.
- Another way to become more familiar with your cultural identity is to make a Pinterest board. You may know I have one for my bookish life and of course there are oodles of Italian culture in there.
- Talk to family members, including extended family. They are a wealth of knowledge for history and may be engaging in activities you didn’t know about until now.
- Google your culture and heritage for ideas. This may spark a memory.
Further action steps:
- What’s one tangible step you can take today to celebrate your culture, therefore you? Examples could include listening to traditional music, cooking a special food from a country of origin, or signing up for a dance or language class.
- If you don’t have traditions or rituals from childhood, make your own! There’s no time like the present to start celebrating you. Maybe it’s volunteering at a soup kitchen since a family value rooted in your culture is to give back.
Well, thanks for going with me on this meaningful ride today. You can tell how much importance I place on my culture so maybe you are inspired to do some of the above steps and even share stories with me. I’d love your thoughts on what this post may have inspired within you. Now, I’m off to continue working on my third novel. See you next month…a post you won’t want to miss.
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