Familiaring the Gay, Queering the Family: Coming out and resilience in Mambo Italiano

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This article explores how two Italian-Canadian families negotiate the coming out of their sons in the film Mambo italiano, a comedy/ drama released in 2003 and set in Montreal, Canada. The Italian-Canadian protagonist, Angelo, after years of living in the closet, decides to tell his parents he is gay, outing at the same time his Italian-Canadian lover, Nino, and provoking initially strong and vexed reactions in their respective families. Although full of stereotypes and clichés on ethnicity and gender identities, and following closely the so-called coming-out films’ genre, arguably concerned with positive representations of gay coming-out experiences, the film portrays the ironic, creative, and interesting ways in which these Italian-Canadian families negotiate a coming out despite the homophobic prejudices they are imbued with. Moving from studies of family resilience, this article argues that the major strategies used for integrating gayness into the family are drawn from the resources available to (post)migrant families. These are the use of rituals and the adaptation of ethnic schemata to new realities in order to cope with the unfamiliar, and the ability to envision family as an evolving and changeable reality, as this capability and the hope for a better future is what had sustained the survival of migrants in a hostile land. These considerations are backed up with reference to Italian-Canadian and Italian-North/American gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) writers, whose concerns are similar to those found in Mambo italiano.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-187
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of GLBT Family Studies
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Italian-Canadian cinema
  • Italian-North/American LGB writing
  • Italian-Canadian studies
  • ethnic families
  • family resilience
  • coming out


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