Decades ago, in selecting a Greek-American family as the closing destination of my first published novel, I imagined its circle of siblings as an embodiment of Western civilization – a bohemian counterbalance to the Tibetan Buddhism my hippie-dippy Dharma bum was carrying back to the American heartland. I intended the fusion of two non-mainstream cultures to suggest the rainbow of alternative lifestyles emerging in the late ’60s and early ’70s and the optimistic possibilities before us.
Frankly, some of what I wrote was semi-autobiographical. After an immersion in yoga practice on a small farm in the Pocono mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, I had returned to a rural corner of Ohio – a small town I call Prairie Depot in some later novels. While our yoga was Hindu-based, the teachings allowed me to explore an earlier interest in both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism – enough similarities exist for me to feel comfortable in that part of my story.
What still astonishes me, though, is my intuitive flash to make the family Greek. I vaguely sense my decision may have been based on a local family-owned restaurant that had undergone a similar tragedy, though I would have known little more than what I’ve just related. Only in the past half-dozen years have I begun to perceive how prevalent Greek immigrants and their descendants have been in the American experience, yet even when they’re as numerous as they are where I now live, their presence is nearly invisible to the general public.
I hope my newest novel, What’s Left, will change that perception.
Of course you trim the fat. Even when it’s tasty:
Each of them might add: Let me stomp on your toes as we teach you the dances for the wedding. Let your lips heartily and delightfully shout Opa! as we applaud the musicians. You’ll never lose what you sensed in the Middle Ages only days before when you lost yourself in the museum. Do not cling to that experience, but savor its passing. The amazement you’ve felt in the tunnels of the city is but a part of the polychromatic connection of dormitory and freak farm and whatever’s yet to be in your journey. Even if there’d never been the fine art of underground exploration, Dimitri and Nita and your guru would have brought you home, somehow, even before you’d meet your Diana.
Whether we’re Greek at heart or Tibetan or Middle American doesn’t matter so much. What does matter is the love in our hearts and the devotion we share for the Creator of all.
My, how the story and its tone changed since that draft! Whew! The point remains, though, that Cassia’s future father was looking for something with deep roots. And I can now add that we rarely step on each other’s toes while dancing!
Put another way, the more I interact with my local Greek community, the more I’m impressed.
Do you have any friends who are Greek descendants?
Or, if you are one, what would you tell the rest of us? What should we get straight?