ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A GREEK-AMERICAN JOURNEY
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FROM 1 MARCH TO 5 MARCH 2014
"ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON is a moving memoir about a close knit immigrant family that struggles to maintain the cherished values of the old country while taking advantage of the freedom and opportunities of their new-found land. A touching story told with rare simplicity and emotion."
Nicholas Gage, author of the bestseller "ELENI"
"OUR story, the story of our parents and grandparents who left Greece, Pontos, Mikrasia, Cyprus, Northern Epirus in search of a better tomorrow... a book that will touch you enormously. A sensitive, nostalgic story that had me smiling and tearing as I read it on the Metro going in to the office...
Your Ithaka was a joy to read, Stavros, the love and nostalgia shining through like a beacon of light."
Excerpt from the book:
“Yiayia preferred the simple pleasures of working in her garden, spending endless hours in her aromatic kitchen, or reading someone's fortune from the sediment at the bottom of a coffee cup. I would ask Yiayia what her coffee cup told her. She would smile and look carefully at it, proclaiming that I would be lucky and happy in my life, even though I sensed that she had not been lucky or happy in hers.
I used to love watching her meticulously rolling dough into paper-thin sheets with which she fashioned meat-filled braids of pastry while she regaled me with stories of her childhood. She always seemed busy with something at hand: digging up dandelion leaves with a knife, baking bread in an outdoor brick oven, planting flowers, tending her vegetable garden, cooking balls of fried dough that she would dip in honey and offer her guests, or brewing another strong cup of Turkish coffee in her copper pot with the long handle. To me she was soft and smelled of lemon cologne; on the inside, however, she was as hard as a walnut, very much in the mold of the Epirotan women who carried ammunition boxes on their backs up narrow mountain trails to resupply the Greek soldiers fighting the Italian invaders in 1940.
In her later years, Yiayia always wore her hair like the women of her village, pulled back, braided, and coiled in a bun that she would loosen at night to comb while we talked. "Tell the Panagia what bothers you, my boy, and she will always listen and pray for you," she said, pointing to the icon of the Virgin Mary on her dresser, lit by a small oil lamp.
When we lived in Turkey, she would often take me for a walk on sunny days down to Taksim Square, where the statute of a stern Kemal Ataturk looked down on us from his lofty perch. She would invariably buy me a sweet roll sprinkled with sesame, which I shared with the pigeons that congregated there; then she would swear me to secrecy, lest I divulge the fact to my mother. And, of course, it was the first thing I blurted out when I came home, running up the stairs. It was a game we played.
Yiayia possessed her share of human frailties, to which I was always totally oblivious. To me she embodied all that one could want in another human being because she loved me unconditionally. Nothing else mattered, and I returned her love in kind."