My dad, who never finished high school, would have said: “What the hell is a first-generation college student?” I suspect he is not alone. Well Dad, I was a first-generation college student because you and mom did not go to college.

My dad was a fireman. My mom sewed athletic shoes in a factory where everyone spoke Portuguese. As a Portuguese-American, she fit in because she was bilingual. Today, it is an advantage to be bilingual; but back then in Boston, it was simply a class differentiator. Of course, my Irish-American dad did not want my sister and me to be bilingual because it would have been considered a societal deficit.

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