This paper examines how migration redefines family narratives and dynamics. Through a parallel between the mother and the mother tongue, I unravel the emotional, linguistic, social, and ideological connotations of the mother–daughter relationship, which I define as a ‘condensed narrative about origin and identity’. This definition refers to the fact that the daughter’s biological, affective, linguistic, and socio-cultural identity grounds in the mother. The mother–daughter tie also has a gendered dimension, which opens up interesting gateways into the female condition. Taking this assumption as a starting point, I examine how migration, impacting on the mother–daughter relationship, can redefine gender roles and challenge models of femininity, which are culturally, socially, geographically, and linguistically embedded. I investigate this aspect from a linguistic perspective, through a reading of a corpus of narratives written by four Italian-Canadian writers. The movement from Italy to Canada enacts ‘the emergence of alternative family romances’ and draws new routes to femininity. This paper seeks to illustrate how, in the narratives I examine, these new routes are explored through linguistic means. The authors in my corpus use code-switching to highlight contrasting views of femininity and reposition themselves with respect to politics of gender.
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