Ceil Lucas was born in the United States but raised from ages five through twenty-one in Guatemala City and Rome, Italy. The Guatemala of the mid- 1950s saw intense American intervention in Guatemalan affairs, intervention shaped by the deep fear of communism. Italy, on the other hand, was experiencing a post-war economic boom and the beginning of the “years of lead”. This memoir tells of her upbringing first in Guatemala City, then in Rome, and finally in America. As a result of this upbringing, upon meeting someone new, she invariably says, “I wasn’t raised here”, “here” meaning the U.S. But she has also studied the history of her family and has discovered that her first ancestors on her mother’s side were among the Scottish Prisoners transported to Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1654 by Oliver Cromwell, following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650; Daniel De Lucas appears in Kent, England in 1500, with Spanish connections, and the first Lucas to America was a Quaker who sailed to Philadelphia in 1679. She is therefore very American, ten generations’ worth. The stories of her ancestors, right up through her parents, have become her stories and are central to her memoir. Those stories help explain, in the broadest sense, how she got here. The central thread of the memoir is the search for the balance between “I wasn’t raised here” and “I’m deeply American.”
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Ceil Lucas is Professor Emerita, retired from Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the world’s only liberal arts university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, where she taught linguistics from 1982 to 2013 through American Sign Language (ASL), with a focus on the structure and use of sign languages. She is currently the editor of the journal Sign Language Studies. Ceil started teaching Italian in 1973, at all levels, and continues to do so. She has maintained the French and Spanish that she learned in Guatemala and has picked up Irish along the way; her native language is English.