Thursday, May 8, 2014

Greek American Studies Resource Portal Update – Spring 2014 (Installment I)

Submitted by Elaine Thomopoulos


a) Autobiographies–Memoir–Biographies

Dukakis, Olympia. Ask Me Again Tomorrow: A Life in Progress. HarperCollins Publishers. New York, 2003.

Karalis, Eftihios. Ripples of Fate. PublishAmerica, 2003

After his widowed mother was killed during the 1953 earthquake in Kefalonia, five-year-old Karalis was sent to an orphanage in Patras. Through a Greek newspaper in America, his cousin Makis, who lived in the United States, saw his name. Makis alerted his father Aris, Karalis's paternal uncle. Karalis had never met this uncle who lived in Kefalonia. He spent the next four years with Aris and his family, and then when Aris and his family left for America, he lived with another relative in Greece. Throughout the book, Karalis recalls lyrics which made an impact on him, like the following lyrics he heard on the battery-powered radio of the postman: “Life is a simple lie, just a faint breath of air. Like a flower one day, we'll be snapped off a stem.” At age 14, he was reunited with his uncle Aris in America. With courage, hard work, and the help and encouragement of his family, Karalis did well, earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. In 1980, Karalis married Irene Petros in Washington, D.C. When their son Petros was born, he writes that he felt “I had a family again, exactly 28 years after the deadly quake of 1953.” After the birth of their twins, Pavlos and Aphrodite Marietta, he notes, “It was then, deep in my heart, that I felt an inner peace as I sensed my mother's spirit finally at rest. The ripples of fate had transformed into rays of hope.” (adapted from a book review written by Elaine Thomopoulos and published in The National Herald.)

Mavrovitis, Jason C. Out of the Balkans. Sonoma, CA: Jason Mavroritis, 2003. Can be accessed at Preservation of American Hellenic Heritage,

Out of the Balkans is the story of the author’s maternal and paternal ancestors, starting with a historical background of their origins. It describes the forces that led them to leave their homelands in a time of war and uncertainty to cross the Atlantic and risk the unknown. Finally, it celebrates their struggles and successes in the United States.

Walsh, Efthalia Makris. Beloved Sister: Biography of a Greek-American Family, Letters From the Homeland. Tegea Press: Bethesda, Md., 1998.

Bibliographies [new category]

Frangos, Steve. "Suggested Readings about the Greek American Experience." Books Special Edition, The National Herald, December 2, 2006, pp. 22, 23.  

An annotated bibliography of a selection of fiction and non-fiction books that the author recommends


Economou, Steven G. Grenglish: A Lexicon (2nd edition). Steven G. Economou, 2001.

This self-published book, complete with drawings, is a humorous look at the language developed by those who immigrated to America at the turn of the century. As the author explains: “If they did not know the proper Greek word for something, and also did not know, or feel comfortable with the English word for it …no problem. They simply first phonetically transformed the English work to suit their speech patterns and then adopted it as their own. Each “Grenglish” word is accompanied by the author’s poignant remembrance of an event that took place in Chicago between 1925-1960.

Literature and Poetry – a) Fiction

Davidson, Catherine Temma. The Priest Fainted. NY: Henry Holt, 1998.  
The novel is informed by the personal experience of the author, a third-generation Greek American. The narrator journeys to Greece, the birthplace of her grandmother, in passionate pursuit of her mother's and grandmother's pasts. In the process she discovers insights about herself and her own identity.

Kokonis, Nicholas. Arcadia, My Arcadia. Deerfield, IL: St. Basil’s Publishers, 2004.

Mavrovitis, Jason. Remember Us. Sonoma, CA: Golden Fleece, 2007.

This fictionalized account of the life of Mavrovitis’s maternal grandparents and their family spans the years from 1886 to 1936. Here is the description on the book jacket: “At a time of sweeping nationalism in the Balkans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the characters in Remember Us survive pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and guerrilla warfare. Escaping war they leave homes and loved ones to forge new lives in America. But in the New World, the immigrants find that they must rely on their culture and enduring family ties in the face of loss of place, poverty, death, and scandal.”

Literature and Poetry – f) Children’s Literature [new category]

Aliki. Marianthe’s Story. New York. Greenwillow Books, 1998.

Marianthe's Story, which includes illustrations, consists of two books in one: “Painted Words” and “Spoken Memories.” It’s a children’s book.

Although the words Greece or America are not used in the stories, the author herself was born to Greek parents and did not know the language when she began school in Philadelphia.

Book One, Painted Words focuses on Marianthe’s adjustment to life in the new land and the difficulties she had in school since she did not know any of her classmates and was not able to communicate with them in the English language.  Her teacher encourages her to use her paintings to tell her story.   Through her paintings, and eventually through words, she relates her feelings and experiences.  
In Book Two: Spoken Memories, Marianthe tells her classmates the story of her life in the close-knit rural village where she grew up before coming to the new land, using both spoken work and paintings. She describes the struggles through famine, war, and separation from the father.  She explains: "People were leaving our poor village. They were going to a new land, hoping for a better life. First the father left, to work and save until their families could join them." Marianthe, her twin brothers, and her mother join the father in the new land. Marianthe mentions the "sad goodbyes," including "the people and the village we loved" and "the trees, the rocks, the birds.” However, the emphasis of the story of Marianthe is not on the sad goodbyes but on the new beginnings. (By Elaine Thomopoulos)

To be added to entries that are already on the portal:
A description of Greek-American Pioneer Women of Illinois, edited by Elaine Thomopoulos 
The book chronicles the struggles and triumphs, the pathos and joy of five women who emigrated to the United States from 1885 to 1923: Georgia Bitzis Pooley, Presbytera Stella Christoulakis Petrakis, Theano Papazoglou Margaris, and Venette Tomaras Askounes Ashford. With over 125 historic photos and documents which span the years 1885 to 2000, this book showcases the life stories of immigrant pioneer women, their families, friends, and the emerging Greek-American community of Illinois.
A description of a book already cited in the memoir section: 100 Years: From Greece to Chicago and Back by Nicholas Thomopoulos.
Growing up in Chicago during the 1930s, `40s and `50s was a life rich in tradition, family and memories. Nick Thomopoulos in 100 Years chronicles the vibrant life of the neighborhood surrounding the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.  He tells of the tragic death of his father and the difficulties and joys his immigrant mother faced in raising five young children in an emerging metropolis unlike Zakynthos, Greece. Because of the Great Depression, World War II, the Greek Civil War and the hardships in Greece, Marie received only an occasional letter from her siblings. In 1962, Marie, with Nick, returned to Greece 42 years after she left. Three of her five siblings did not know she was coming, and her husband’s lone sister did not know the family was even alive.  The story describes the excitement of reuniting with the family.

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