"Growing up Norwegian" was not only a question of entering and learning
the ways of an immigrant community‹its divisions, its personality,
its institutions‹but also of learning its boundaries‹what belonged
outside the community, in the world of the neighborhood as a bounded
area, and in the wider world of the neighborhood as a bounded area,
and in the wider world of the city.
The paper will explore the relationship between these things, from
the remembered experience of childhood in the 40s and 50s, and from
efforts to revisit these scenes and to understand them from an adult
I should like to begin with the topography of Bay Ridge/Sunset Park,
from the point of view of its fringes, its pathways, its ethnic borderlands,
and its zones. Then move to transportation systems, and the way their
directional pull defined certain horizons and destinations: the streetcar,
the subway, the ferry. How these linked the self both with the tribal‹other
people like oneself at a distance‹and the cosmopolitan‹the world of
museums, galleries, concerts, great public spaces and anonymity.
Then I should like to explore how I have approached these experiences
and memories as an adult‹in reverse as it were‹following the trails
back to their source, and explain the reasons‹as a historian, after
having collected an archive and taped interviews‹for turning to the
writing of fiction as a way to come to terms with this encounter.
I conclude with a comment on the disappearance of the Norwegians from
Brooklyn, the few survivors, the meaning of the whole episode.