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Reviewed by:
  • Reading Greek America: Studies in the Experience of Greeks in the United States
  • Ioanna Laliotou
Spyros D. Orfanos , editor, Reading Greek America: Studies in the Experience of Greeks in the United States. New York: Pella. 2002. Pp. 383. Cloth $45.00.

As the title indicates, this volume of essays addresses several of the ways in which one can experience life in the United States from a Greek American point of view. The stated aim of this collection of essays is to provide an overall presentation of Greek American life and politics and to familiarize the reader with the history of the Greek American community. The book consists of nineteen essays in which different aspects of the political, social, and psychological life of people of Greek descent in the United States are considered. The volume's contributors cover a wide range of expertise and research interests including political science, sociology, psychology, child and family studies, and music. These nineteen essays are supplemented by a selected bibliography that includes some of the most well-known non-fiction and fiction literature on the subject.

Most of the essays in this volume were originally published in journals and other scholarly collections. As mentioned in the preface, the essays in the book were also used as readings for a course on "The Greek American Community" that the editor taught for many years at Queens College of the City University of New York. Even though the educational objective of the book is foregrounded, the overall initiative is contextualized by a lamenting tone that runs throughout the volume concerning the lack of discussion and debate about Greek American history and politics. However, no further detailed argumentation is provided to demonstrate this presumed need for more exploration of the issues raised in the essays. Why and how we should engage in a more in-depth studies of Greek American history and politics? What is the scholarly, political, cultural, and intellectual context within which we choose to debate Greek America? There is so much taken for granted in the statement about the unfortunate lack of debate on the issue of the Greek American experience that it is difficult for the general reader to find the point of entry into the discussion that the book seeks to generate. As a result, most of the articles can function as valuable educational and psychological tools for those who strongly identify themselves as members of the Greek American community, but they remain rather inaccessible for those who have a more scholarly interest in immigration history and immigrant culture.

The first part of the volume is devoted to history and politics, even though most of the essays included in this section were not written by professional historians. Readings in this section include a detailed examination of the historiography on Greek Americans by Charles Moskos, a detailed history of Greek American radicalism by Dan Georgakas, and an analysis of the role that the church and religion have played in the "Americanization versus ethnic tradition" debate, also by Charles Moskos. In her article, "Greek Women in the Intermountain West," Helen Papanikolas portrays in colorful detail the lives of young matriarchs in the West. She shows how these strong-willed women persevered through loneliness and harsh circumstances to help sustain male-dominated Greek communities along the Western frontier. Papanikolas stresses those alternative experiences of Greek immigrants that go against the grain of hegemonic accounts of Greek America and the United States. Other articles in this section focus on the role of [End Page 144] Greek Americans, such as Michael Dukakis, in US politics (Spyros D. Orfanos), ethnic politics and the role of the Greek American community in shaping international relations between Greece and the United States (Harry J. Psomiades), and speculations on the future and the viability of Greek American identity in the twenty-first century (George A. Kourvertaris).

Part Two is concerned with the cultural and social aspects of Greek America. Articles in this section address the history of the Greek American community in New York City and the role that various institutions such as the media, the Church, and the schools have played in sustaining the use of the Greek language among Greek...


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