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My Greek Books—December 2023 Reads

by Maria A. Karamitsos   ·  6 months ago   ·  

Welcome back to My Greek Books! This time I’ll share a variety of genres. Click through to find out what I’ve been reading.

My Greek Books

It’s My Greek Books time! Normally, I share three books, but this month, there’s a bonus read! Let’s go!

YaYa’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama by Tassie Kalas

Van Velzer Press (September, 2021)

About the author

My followers met Tassie Kalas last month when I put her in the Author Spotlight. Born and raised in Houston, TX to a Greek immigrant father and Greek-American mother, Tassie is also a realtor. She traces her Greek roots to Nafpaktos, Kefalonia, and Patmos. This mom of three and grandmother of two loves a good story and making people laugh. YaYa’s Big Black Purse is her first book.

My Greek books December 2023_YaYa's Big Black Purse book cover
Humorous short stories based on the author’s life.

About the book

Yaya’s Big Black Purse is a collection of short stories based on Tassie’s life growing up in a Greek family and then becoming a mother herself. The stories follow four generations of a Greek-American family, and a mother as she grows older, examines her shifting role, and finds her own voice. She took nuggets from her own life and fictionalized them with humor and love.

My Greek Books review

The book is a work of fiction, but I had to ask Tassie again if it was really a memoir, because I saw my life on those pages. Growing up Greek-American, and now as a mom of teenagers, I could relate to so much in this book. Tassie Kalas’ heartfelt reflections on growing up Greek, to becoming a young mom, then a mom with grown children are heartfelt. These poignant stories will take you back through your own life. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry—and you’ll clamor for more.

Renos Haralambidis: Cinema & Manhood as Radical Carnival by Andrew Horton

(Ianos Publications, September, 2023)

About the author

Andrew Horton is an award-winning screenwriter, and the author of thirty books on film, screenwriting and cultural studies. He’s The Jeanne H. Smith Professor of Film and Video Studies Emeritus of the University of Oklahoma. Andrew has conducted screenwriting workshops around the world, including the Czech Republic, England, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and throughout the U.S. An esteemed film historian and scholar, I met him (and Haralambidis) recently in New York during the Renos Haralambidis Retrospective, part of the New York Greek Film Expo 2023. He overflowed with enthusiasm for the work of the acclaimed Greek filmmaker. There I obtained a copy of this book.

My Greek Books December 2023_Renos Haralambidis: Cinema & Manhood as Radical Carnival
Andrew Horton examines the life & work of the acclaimed Greek filmmaker.

About the book

For more than twenty years, Horton, a true Philhellene, has followed the career of Award-winning Director, Screenwriter, and Actor Renos Haralambidis. The playful films blur the boundaries between real life and fiction and are mad “for almost no money at all”. The book analyzes Haralambidis’ films–NO BUDGET STORY (1997), CHEAP SMOKES (2000), THE HEART OF THE BEAST (2005), and FOUR BLACK SUITS (2010). He states that, “Along the way, in such a carnivalesque approach to cinema, Haralambidis also captures a refreshingly original depiction of ‘masculinity’ that contrasts strongly with both Hollywood images of manhood and traditional Greek male roles both in society and on the screen. Neither ‘macho’ nor a ‘Karagkiozis’ fool, Haralambidis emerges as a young man combining an innocence and quiet energy that succeed in defying cultural stereotypes.”

My Greek Books review

I so enjoyed Andrew Horton’s adept examination of Haralambidis films, especially after viewing them. He skillfully dissects the stories and reveals themes and nuances inherent in the works. He also analyzes Haralambidis—as a man, as a storyteller, and his impact on Greek cinema. If you haven’t seen the films, after reading this book, you’ll seek them out. It’s a quick and fascinating read.

(NOTE: I have no affiliation with Ianos Publications. This is the only sales outlet for this book I could find)

America, America by Elia Kazan

(Stein and Day, 1961)

About the author

Born in 1909 in Constantinople to Cappadocian Greek parents, Elias Kazantzoglou, known as Elia Kazan, died in 2003. He came to the States in 1923. After studying drama at university, he acted professionally for eight years. He co-founded the Actors Studio in 1947. His stage credits include “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1947). His films include On the Waterfront (1954) and East of Eden (1955). The New York Times called him “one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history”. Among Kazan’s accolades, he won three Academy Awards, five Tony Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards. This books was the first publication for Stein and Day, and it’s been said that the proceeds from the three million copies sold financed the film.

My Greek Books December 2023_America, America by Elia Kazan book cover
An eye opening account of a migrant’s journey, based on the life of Kazan’s uncle.

About the book

Inspired by the life of his uncle, Avraam Elias Kazantzoglou, Kazan wrote America, America, which he made into a film in 1963.

In the 1890s, young Stavros lives in a village in Asia Minor. He and his friend Vartan, an Armenian, dream of immigrating to America together. But Stavros witnesses the massacres that claimed the lives of his Armenian neighbors, including his friend. When he tries to retrieve Vartan’s corpse, he’s nearly imprisoned. His family realizes that Greeks aren’t safe in the region and sends Stavros with all the family’s valuables to Constantinople. Stavros is to travel to his father’s cousin’s carpet shop, to work and earn enough money to journey to the land of opportunity to realize his own American Dream—and then send for them.

Stavros treks through impoverished villages. He’s naïve, and on the way loses his money and his possessions. He arrives in Constantinople penniless—and irrevocably changed. He hasn’t given up on his dream and will do whatever it takes to get to America and make his family proud.

My Greek Books review

Part novel and part script, Elia Kazan’s America, America is a chilling account of a migrant’s experiences in the pursuit of a better life. Every person should read this story, to know the challenges people have faced—and not always overcome—to get to America. This gripping story will open your eyes to traumas and tragedies many migrants face—the discrimination, the desperation, the hunger, that often reshape their character—and the negative impacts on them. It depicts the ever-present hardships for immigrants in the pursuit of their own American Dream.

Note: I purchased a 1962 edition at a used bookstore. Amazon carries used copies from various printing editions.

The Island of Zoe by Dino Hajiyorgi and Christos Sourligas

Satin Romance (June, 2023)

About the authors

Award-winning Writer Dino Hajiyorgi was born in Istanbul and lived in Chalkida, Greece. He studied film at ArtCenter College of Design in California and worked as an animation series scriptwriter for Greek and German studios. An honorary member of the Athenian Club of Science Fiction, his short stories have appeared in newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and in the Greek edition of Asimov’s Magazine. He’s published several other books, including Nighttime Traditions, Ashes on Marble, Wolf of the Sea, and Saltibango and the Cats of Hydra. Dino passed away in 2022.

Christos Sourligas is an award-winning and bestselling Greek Canadian author and filmmaker. Over the years, he’s created and produced multiple feature films and television shows. As a former senior television executive for several internationally renowned production companies, he’s successfully brought shows into the homes of over 1.5 billion television viewers worldwide, airing in over 140 countries, and on 100 airlines. He’s the co-founder of ComedyPro, the most important annual global gathering of the biggest players in the comedy world. Christos is also the author of My Big Fat Greek Cookbook, featuring a collection of his mother’s recipes in a contemporary look at Greek food and culture told through the lens of an immigrant child.

My Greek Books December 2023_The Island of Zoe by Dino Hadjiyorgi and Christos Sourligas
A young woman travels to a Greek island to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish & uncovers more than she bargained for.

About the book

Zoe, a young Greek-American woman, must fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish—to transport her body for burial to Petra, the Greek island of her birth. Her grandmother has spoken little about her roots. When Zoe arrives, she discovers many old family secrets hidden in the island’s mystery, as well as an opulent villa that belonged to her grandmother. Zoe notes that the elderly residents are robust and agile, and that no one living there has died in the past seventy years. A series of strange happenings lead her to delve into the mysteries of the past. But some do not want these mysteries revealed and try to banish her from the island before she can uncover the truth. What’s really going on in Petra? You’ll have to read it to find out.

My Greek Books review

Dino Hajiyorgi and Christos Sourligas have crafted an enchanting and imaginative tale of supernatural proportions. Not only will you be transported to a (fictional) Greek island, but you’ll ponder the questions of immortality. The Island of Zoe is a fun and fanciful read.

My Greek Books December 2023_Christmas themed image of an open book with gingerbread cookies, a festive beverage, a candy cane, holly & berries, and a gift. IMAGE BY YLANITE KOPPENS

My Greek Books—December 2023 Edition

Well, that’s it for this month. Did you like having a “bonus” book? Now you have some new titles to add to your list. Have you been good? Maybe Santa will bring them to you. And they make great gifts! See you next month for more My Greek Books. Happy reading and Happy Holidays!

Read more:

My Greek Books—Christmas 2022 Reads

Singing Ghosts of Christmas Past 

Catch the Magic on a Wintery Soul Walk

Maria A. Karamitsos

Maria A. Karamitsos is a journalist, author, and poet. She's the founder & former publisher/editor of WindyCity Greek magazine and former associate editor & senior writer for The Greek Star newspaper. Maria currently pens a literary column for NEO magazine and also contributes to Greek City Times and TripFiction. Her work has been published in The Magic of Us-A Moms Who Write Poetry Anthology, The Pen Poetry Magazine, Voices of Hellenism Literary Journal, Highland Park Poetry, GreekCircle magazine, The National Herald, GreekReporter, Harlots Sauce Radio, Women.Who.Write, KPHTH magazine, XPAT Athens, and more. Maria has contributed to two books: Greektown Chicago: Its History, Its Recipes and The Chicago Area Ethnic Handbook. She's currently working on her 1st novel.

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