Little said he hoped his students’ in-person interactions with Hempson will both encourage them to both talk more with family members about family roots and to find additional opportunities to practice writing. Under the guidance of Hempson, students completed a family tree worksheet, discussed family heritage in small groups and then came back together as a class to realize one important notion: going back in history, several families immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities.
“A lot of people came from Ireland,” said Hudson Hare, after his classmates shared where their family roots were.
Little’s students thought that fact was interesting, and even more so when Hempson told them that country’s potato famine in the mid-1800s. Coming from a family of Italian immigrants, Hempson shared that she grew up knowing her grandparents spoke Italian but she understood little of that language.
“I grew up in two different worlds pretty much,” she said. “As I got older, I appreciated it more.”
She appreciated it so much that she spent years recording family stories and eventually wrote a book called “Bean Pickers: American Immigrant Portraits,” after those stories inspired her to share her family’s journey from Italy to Utica, NY with the world.
After Hempson shared her research and writing process, she read excerpts from her book.