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, 2023
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…

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John Gorman

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