"Their own parents, who spoke foreign languages"

The foreign-born grandparents of the young people in the novel would have been born in the late 19th or early 20th century. A quarter of the Detroit population has German heritage, stemming from the recruitment of them to farm land in the mid 19th century. Many retained their German language and culture into the 20th century. 1.5 million people from Michigan have Polish heritage from their 19th century immigration, 500,000 have Irish , 400,000 have Italian, and 150,000 are of Greek descent. The protagonist of Eugenides' second novel Middlesex (2002), as well as Eugenides himself, has Greek grandparents who arrive in Detroit from Asia Minor after fleeing the 1922 Greco-Turkish war.