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You’ve heard of Mnemosyni, the Greek goddess of memory. Mythology buffs will know that she’s also the goddess of storytelling—and mother of the Muses! So, it’s only fitting to name a literary column in her honor. Here, you’ll learn about authors, poets, books, and all things “Greek” literary.
By: Maria A. Karamitsos
Welcome back! Hope you had a great summer! Now, as the weather cools, let’s cozy up with a good memoir! Some use the terms “memoir” and “autobiography” interchangeably, but according to Brittanica, “An autobiography is an account of a person’s entire life, but a memoir is usually about a specific period of a person’s life or a specific experience”. Authors open their hearts, dig into their souls, and reveal themselves to us. There are so many more, but here are some to check out.
Keep reading for memoirs by Greek-American authors to add to your list!
I wrote about Mary in the March 2023 issue, but hers is such a powerful story, it’s worth mentioning again. Mary has compiled the gut-wrenching stories of a group of Greek adoptees, including her own, in Voices of the Lost Children of Greece: Oral Histories of Cold War International Adoption (Anthem Press, 2023).
Dr. Vicky Giouroukakis
Growing Up in an Immigrant Household and Community: Essays by Descendants of Immigrants (Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2023) is a collection of essays written by the children and grandchildren of immigrants, including Vicky and her sons. The book includes stories of others from different countries, and all share their unique perspectives on straddling two cultures. Through the words of the writers, you’ll relive your own experience and feel a connection, a bond forged by similar upbringings.
Lost Child of Greece: One Orphan’s Incredible Journey Home (Mennonite Press, 2021) is Amalia’s story as an adoptee from a dark time in Greece. This heart-rending memoir takes us on the roller coaster ride of life as an adoptee and the search for one’s truth. She opens us to the heart, soul, and mind of an adoptee and reveals the pain, the sorrow, and the quest for identity.
GodDogs (Finding Zeni, Inc., 2021) follows Nikki as she’s unable to discover her true purpose and starts to question everything. Then she experiences a serendipitous encounter. Despite pleas for her to ignore it, she follows her instincts and intuition through a series of signs and synchronicities. She embarks on a path to spiritual awakening, that takes her to the depths of despair and through dark moments to discover her true purpose. This heartwarming story will make you wonder if you have a higher calling.
The author of several memoirs, Dean’s latest is Ultramarathon Man: Revised and Updated: Confessions of an All-Night Runner (TarcherPerigee, 2023). Dean shares his adventures of his treks through “the shoe-melting inferno of Death Valley, the lung-freezing ferocity of the South Pole, and the awe-inspiring beauty of the towering peaks and craggy canyons of the Sierra Nevada”. Earlier this year, Dean was appointed by the Greek Ministry of Tourism as the Ambassador of Greek Tourism for the promotion of sports tourism, physical wellness, and the Greek Mediterranean diet.
Sophia’s Return: Uncovering My Mother’s Past (She Writes Press, 2021) is the story of her younger years in Thessaloniki. One day, her mother leaves, and Sophia’s blissful world turns into one of despair, confusion, and wonder. We learn the effects on her and the stirring in her heart that pushed her to discover the truth. Her words reveal the emotional upheaval, then her freedom and triumph from the past. It will make you rethink keeping family secrets.
Ben came to the US first as an exchange student during his senior year of high school, then returned for college. His mother’s advice: “Don’t Marry an American” and “be sure to return”. His fate was written: he fell in love with the country, the possibilities—and an American. From his early years in a tiny village on Mount Olympus, to his formative years in Larissa, and then to the US, we follow him on his journey. Don’t Marry An American (Epidexion Books, 2021) is a “Coming to America” tale that follows a “kid with a dream” who worked hard to overcome obstacles and made that dream come true.
Taso G. Lagos
Cooking Greek, Becoming American: Forty Years at Seattle’s Continental Restaurant (McFarland, 2022) follows Taso’s life growing up in his family’s restaurant in Seattle. Also, as an academic, he analyzes the impact of these institutions on the community, and on the immigrants who run them. If, like me, you grew up (or worked) in a restaurant, you’ll definitely relate. But this will make you realize that all those hours we trudged away affected so many, and in the most positive ways. You’ll look at the “Greek diner” in a whole new way.
Taxi to America: A Greek Orphan’s Adoption Journey (independently published, 2023) is the story of a childhood interrupted and the separation of sisters. It’s a story of how fate tore two young girls from the only life they knew and sent them into the unknown. In her debut work, Stella shares her struggles as a young girl who not only had to assimilate into a new family, but also into a new country. It’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s also one of resilience, perseverance, and the power of sisterhood.
George P. Nassos
An engineer, academic, entrepreneur, and author of several books on sustainability, George compiled the life lessons he learned from his parents. He’d taught his children and grandchildren, then wrote them down so they could reference later and not forget. The lessons had such an impact that he decided to share them with the world, as 15 Life Lessons from My Immigrant Parents That You Don’t Learn in School (independently published, 2023). You may recall many of these lessons from your own parents and grandparents. They’re good reminders for all of us.
In BRAVEY: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas (The Dial Press, 2021) the Greek-American Olympic athlete, filmmaker, actress, and writer’s memoir includes a beautiful forward by Maya Rudolph. In a series of essays, Alexi bares all, from being raised by her father after her mother’s suicide, to forging her life’s path, and the lessons learned. BRAVEY offers wisdom for the young and seasoned woman alike. Her ability to share her experiences in a genuine and heartfelt way and forge them into practical advice makes this a must-read. She recently released an adapted version for younger readers (Delacorte Press, 2023).
If You Would Have Told Me (Henry Holt & Co., 2023) will be out in late October. The book’s description reads, “If you would have told a young John flipping burgers at his dad’s fast-food joint that one day he’d be a household name and that, at the height of his success, he’d be living alone, divorced, with no kids, high on a cocktail of forgetting, he might’ve asked, ‘You want fries with that?’” The story chronicles his rise to fame as an actor and musician, and ultimately becoming a family man. His brutally honest story is about friendship, love, loss, and the courage to embrace love once more.
Michael G. Vlamis
A Detour in My Life (independently published, 2020) began as a project to compile his life story and experiences growing up during a historic time in Greece, to share with his grandchildren and subsequent generations. Once complete, his son urged him to publish it. Michael tells of an idyllic childhood in Kalyves, Crete interrupted by WWII and then the Greek Civil War. His harrowing experiences prompted him to immigrate to the US. It’s one thing to read history, but when you read it written by someone who lived it, it truly comes to life. His tome feels exactly the way it was intended—like sitting with a grandfather and listening to his story.
Well, that will get you started! See you next time for more of Mnemosyni’s Musings.