How to Lose Your Culture in 40 Years

Memories are long; life is longer. Away and back in five parts.

John Gorman
15 min readFeb 24


Mediterranean Sea — Marseille, France // Photo: John Gorman

“Papa was born in France.” That was about the size of it. That’s what my Mama told me, in perfect English. I was maybe six years old. That, of course, was never the whole story — it never is.

We don’t have time to really process the entirety of what was lost between 1982 and 2023, or what I’ve tried to reclaim over that time. We only have time to talk about how it was lost, and how I’ve tried to reclaim it.

The short net-net: I was born 40+ years ago in Niagara Falls, New York, to the daughter of a man born in Marseille, France, and the son of a woman born in Naples, Italy. I have great aunts and uncles born in Tunis, Beirut, Valletta, and Agrigento. We all ended up in New York. I am a second-generation American on both sides of my family.

I spent my youth engaged in conversations on fishing trips or patron saint feasts or boating outings, unaware of what was being said. It was always spoken in French or Italian or Arabic, or some Maltese-adjacent compromise that let everyone understand each other.

We had all this nonsense in our home that didn’t look like anywhere else in the neighborhood — globes, National Geographics in international languages, run-of-the-mill pottery that would fetch a pretty penny on eBay. We had all these rituals I didn’t understand and no one bothered to explain; they just sorta assumed I would know. Sometimes I did.

We used to grab fresh bread from the back loading docks of bakeries, have scarlet-red sauce on Sundays, roast lamb spit and kebab on holidays, indulge in feasts of seven fishes on holidays, and nibble on biscotti and Mamoul for both breakfasts and desserts. I drank wine at 12, and coffee at 13.

I was baptized and confirmed Catholic; I no longer believe in god and the folks in my family who still no longer go to Catholic churches. But I mean … look at this first communion pic.

That party, man. You can imagine the wedding scene from the Godfather, and that’s what I remember as a…



John Gorman

Yarn Spinner + Brand Builder + Renegade. Award-winning storyteller with several million served. For inquiries: