My Greek Books
Hello there. Welcome back! Summer is winding down and the kids are back to school. And it’s time to share with you my picks for September reads.
If you’re new to My Greek Reads, each month I share some books I’ve recently read. The greater percentage of books I read are by Greek authors, set in Greece, or on Greek subject matter. I’m happy to share them with you.
Looking for book recommendations? Drop me a line here. And do share with us in the comments what you’re reading.
Keep going to discover what I’ve been reading.
The Classic Grill—A Tale of Greek Gods and Immigrant Heroes by Nancy Econome
Kafeneon Productions-June 12, 2020
When I learned about this book, I knew I had to read it. For her debut novel, the Northern California-based Greek-American draws upon her own family lore. Her immigrant family owned a restaurant called The Classic Grill in Vallejo, CA. Here, she pays homage to them, their community, and the immigrant struggle.
The story opens before WWII, about a Greek immigrant family chasing their American dream. Achilles, and his wife, Chrisoula, run The Classic Grill. Their sons, Demo and George work alongside them. Achilles pins his hopes and dreams on his eldest son, Demo; he wants his help to expand their business and take it over some day. Demo has other plans. Meanwhile, George, full of enthusiasm and ideas, can’t get his father to take him seriously. Stubborn Achilles believes he can bend Demo’s will. But his obstinate ways become roadblocks.
The story is told from George’s point of view. Now an elderly man, he shares his family story with a group of young immigrants working in a fast food restaurant. Though they are from different backgrounds, they relate to the immigrants’ plight, strong family values and expectations.
With her rich prose, Nancy Econome did a skillful job bringing the old restaurant to life. She took me back to my ours, to the hopes and dreams my dad had for himself, for his family. In The Classic Grill’s regular customers, I see ours. Her characters are people I know. I feel them. It conjured so many stories that I’d tucked away. Now I’m compelled to chronicle them. There are some unexpected twist and turns, but she serves up the message loud and clear: family is top priority.
Buy it on Amazon
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The Blight of Asia by George Horton
Hellenic American National Council-January 1, 2005
This book, originally published in 1926, contains personal accounts written by George Horton, who served as U.S. Consul General in Smyrna from 1911–1917 and 1919–1922. It brings to light the story of what really happened in Asia Minor. He brings facts about the genocide of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. Find candid discussions about the Turkification of Turkey, the systematic ethnic cleansing of Christian populations that dwelled there for centuries. It ends with the burning of Smyrna. Mr. Horton also discusses why the Great Powers did nothing to intervene.
There are many important insights here, especially with the situation currently brewing between Greece and Turkey. It’s vital that we learn history, or in the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ This one is a must-read.
Other books on that list regarding Asia Minor include, but are not limited to: Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 by Giles Milton, and Not Even My Name by Thea Halo. On my list, but haven’t had a chance to read yet is an acclaimed new book, The Greek Genocide in American Naval War Diaries: Naval Commanders Report and Protest Death Marches and Massacres in Turkey’s Pontus Region, 1921-1922 by Savvas “Sam” Koktzoglou & Robert Shenk.
This edition was published by the Hellenic American National Council (HANC), with a forward by James W. Gerard, Former Ambassador to Turkey; as well as an introduction by the late Theodore Spyropoulos, a former HANC president.
A few copies are available on Amazon. I purchased mine from the Asia Minor & Pontian Hellenic Resource Center. HANC may also have copies.
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Beneath the Fig Leaves by Olympia Panagiotopoulos
ReadHowYouWant-June 5, 2020
Greek-Australian Author Olympia Panagiotopoulos shares her family story, from a poor village in the Peloponnese, to seeking new opportunities in Australia. Through food, family bonds, humor, and love, she takes us beneath the treasured fig tree in her mother’s garden to share this immigrant story. It’s one of love, loss, determination, courage, tradition, and history.
Olympia lovingly brings to life those halcyon days in the garden with her aging mother, as she tried to learn about her life, her hopes, her dreams, her journey. What they gave up, how they struggled. How they created a new life in a strange new land. With them, she immortalizes those lost and seals their memory as eternal.
In Chapter 4, she writes one of the most eloquent passages I’ve read describing life as a something-hyphenated person, the child of immigrants straddling two worlds and a unique identity. As a Greek-American, it resonated with me:
“I was an imaginative child who hopped, skipped and jumped in and out of different worlds as I tried to navigate my way through the contrasts of my Greek-Australia childhood.”~ Olympia Panagiotopoulos in Beneath the Fig Leaves
To be honest, I just started it the other day, and for the last two nights have stayed up way too late reading it. I’ll probably finish by tomorrow. The poignant tales evoke our own family stories and remind us the importance of capturing them before it’s too late, to preserve them for the ages. Those stories between and under the leaves, just waiting to be harvested. Excuse me, I’m going to re-join Olympia and her mother beneath that stately old fig tree.
Buy it on Amazon
My Greek Books September Edition
That should keep you busy for a while. What will I read next? Stay tuned for My Greek Reads in October to learn my selections.
As always if you’re looking for book recommendations, drop me a line. Share what you’re reading in the comments section below.
Till next time – keep reading!
Read recent book reviews and author interviews:
REVIEW: ‘SCORPIONFISH’ by Greek-American Author Natalie Bakopoulos
REVIEW: ‘How Greek is Your Love’ by Marjory McGinn
REVIEW: ‘Love is What You Bake of It’ by Effie Kammenou
Check out some of my book reviews in the archives of WindyCity Greek magazine. Click HERE.