Springtime; or, Why the Greeks Matter

21 April 2023
By Andriana Taratsas

Lairdites! Guess what! There is a lot happening next week. So clear your calendars and listen up (read up? Whatever). On Monday, April 24th, University of Minnesota Professor Douglas Kearney will be visiting Carleton to speak about his poetry and all things creative writing. The event will be held in Boliou 104 and will begin at 6:00. Also happening next week is the celebration for all of our new sophomore majors! Come to the Alumni Guest House at 5:00 for food and literary fun.

Douglas Kearney
Declaration Party Flyer

In addition to being a busy time for us Lairdites, spring is a season of celebration for all of the Greeks and Grecophiles out there (smooth segue, right?). March 25th is Greek Independence Day, when little Greek children dress like revolutionaries—one year I was Bouboulina—and gather to sing the national anthem in their annual act of overseas patriotism. Later, on April 23rd, every Greek man named George—so, like, half of all Greeks, including my own father—celebrates their Name Day, which is basically bigger than your birthday in Greece. And then, of course, there’s Orthodox Easter (also known as Pascha, Greek Easter, or, my personal favorite, Greaster).

This year, Greaster was on the 16th, and so of course I was not home, because I am here. I get a little homesick when I miss Greaster, which has always been a big holiday in my house. Every year, my dad makes two different kinds of lamb—in the oven and on the spit, obviously—as well as dolmades, spanakopita, and roasted potatoes. He dyes eggs bright red, and it’s tradition for each person to choose an egg and then take turns bumping them together. The person whose egg remains uncracked is the “winner” and proceeds to the next round (not that it’s a competition (yes it is)). Basically, we have family and friends over, and eat a lot, and it is a day of fun and feast.

Andriana's Dad
My dad wears the apron in our house.
Food pic
Greaster dinner 2020.

To celebrate the season from afar, I have decided to compile a list of Greek-themed stories. Since my dad grew up in Greece and I grew up in the US, it was important to him that I learned more about the Greek language and culture. When I was little, he used bedtime stories as a way to teach me about Greece, telling me about the daily lives of large Greek families in small villages, and then just for funsies, he would also make them mermaids, because I was six and obsessed with mermaids. Those stories were for my ears only, but here is some of our favorite Greek-themed literature, in case you are tired of watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding for the hundredth time. Although who am I kidding. That movie is a national treasure.

  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: This is admittedly an obvious pick. But it’s one of my favorite novels, in part because of its nuanced and spot-on representation of Greek and Greek American culture. (Not the incest part. But, like, every other part. A+.)

  • Eleni by Nicholas Gage: I first read this memoir in middle school, and it was really meaningful to find a story about immigration and family that was relatively similar to my dad’s. Author Nicholas Gage was born in Greece and lost his mother as a child, prompting him to move to the United States with his siblings to live with a father he barely knew. The book covers everything from history and loss to complex family dynamics and the challenges of cultural acclimation. Highly recommend.

  • Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos: I have not yet read Scorpionfish, but it’s been on my list for a while. That said, I’m currently reading Bakopoulos’ The Green Shore, which is also set in Greece. Her stories incorporate major events in recent Greek history, including the 1967 coup, and focus on Greek and Greek American characters. They are easy reads that engage with Greece as a setting, rather than using it as a mere backdrop (@Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) or the random site of some wild action story (@Jack Ryan).
book pic
The red eggs on the cover are like those we crack for Greaster.
  • Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill: This one was not written by a Greek, but it is complimentary enough, as per the title, that I find it morally permissible to recommend. It is my dad’s go-to beach read (yes, seriously). He has tried to get me to read it many times, but alas, I’m not really a nonfiction person (unless it’s a memoir (see above)). You might be, though! In which case, give this one a try and find out why the Greeks matter while you’re at it.

  • “Immortality” by Panos Karnezis: This one is a short story from Karnezis’ collection called Little Infamies, noted for its village setting and incorporation of magical elements. I particularly appreciate the story for Karnezis’ ability to capture the quirks of the Greek language while writing in English, as well as the way he plays with perspective.

  • “Ithaka” by Constantine Cavafy: If poetry is more your thing, then check out the works of Constantine Cavafy. Father of mine gave me a copy of “Ithaka” to hang up in my room, and it’s a really sweet poem. You can find a translation here on Poetry Foundation.

  • Maestro in Blue: Is this a book? No. It’s a new Netflix TV show from writer and director Christoforos Papakaliatis. But unless you speak Greek, you will be watching the subtitled version, in which case it’s still reading, so it counts. It’s the first Greek-language series that’s become relatively mainstream in the US, and it’s a good watch! It features the music of iconic Greek artists and addresses hot topics around conservatism in Greek society today. Not to mention the scenery from the island of Paxos is gorgeous.
Greek sunset
This is Pelion, not Paxos.
Greek sunset 2
But just as beautiful.

So if you love Greece, or are Greek, or are just a little bored, consider picking out one (or more) of these stories! And then leaving a comment about what you thought. But only if you liked it. No, seriously.

Andriana's Dad

Comments

  • 2023-04-21 21:12:47
    5am

    love the aprob

    • 2023-04-21 21:13:11
      5am

      *apron

  • 2023-04-22 05:20:46
    Maisie Goodale Crowther, ‘58

    Eucharisto para poly!
    Eleni is one of my favorites, and Cavafy’s Ithaka.
    Kazantzakis’ Report to Greco.
    Rollo May, The Cry for Myth, and I’m reading his On Being now. He was a teacher at Anatolia College, Thessaloniki, before we lived there 1971--73. My spouse was an English teacher there.

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