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152 Reviews five exquisite poems that are extremely powerful in their astonishing images and creative tropes. They captivate the reader with their dynamic brilliance. Transcending time and place, mixing deeds ancient and modern in an articulate cry of protest for all victims of prejudice and hate, they resonate with relevance and meaning. Although tÃ-iey are global in their scope and go far beyond the confines of Greece, ancient and modern, they nevertheless provide a perfect coda to this volume. Peter S. Allen Rhode Island College Susan Heuck Allen Connecticut College Helen Papanikolas, Small Bird, Tell Me. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press. 1993. Pp. 198. $24.95. The title of this collection of thirteen short stories derives from lines of a song sung by mothers in Greece at the turn of the century. They plaintively asked for news of their children who had emigrated to the United States. Where did they sleep? Were they healthy? Who tended their needs? Helen Papanikolas answers these questions for those of us living in the final decade of the twentieth century. She takes us back to the first wave of male immigrants and works her way through each succeeding generation of Greeks in America as they navigated between traditional culture and modern America. The stories are told in a discursive manner reminiscent of story-telling at the supper table, church social, or diner counter. This style allows for long stretches of time to be addressed economically, with emphasis placed on the community itself rather than on the author or on specific fictional characters. The perspective is decidedly feminist, but Papanikolas never scolds males for their foibles or idealizes female responses. She tells the tale and allows readers to make their own moral judgments. The entire spectrum of Greek-American life is presented with sympathy, insight, and honesty. The conflicts between immigrants, between immigrants and their offspring, between different waves of immigrants, and between immigrants and their non-Greek neighbors are all examined forthrightly. Papanikolas draws skillfully upon the knowledge she has accumulated through decades of historical research. The details of everyday life and the cultural norms of any given period are always on target. The kafenton bachelor, the wife in an unhappy arranged marriage, the troubled priest, the rebellious daughter, the misunderstood son, and die work-driven father all make their inevitable appearance. Each story stands entirely on its own as a complete statement, yet there is a collective impact as the stories and generations succeed one another. Reviews 153 The community portrait that emerges is not unlike the Winesburg, Ohio portrait found in the tales of Sherwood Anderson or the portrait of Irish Chicago in those of James T. Farrell. Papanikolas first heard some of these stories as a child while growing up in Utah; others were gathered during her historical work; some were simply invented. Whatever their original source, each has been embellished and honed so that it might take its place in the larger literary mosaic, its distinct qualities enhanced by its position in the greater saga unfolding. Appropriate to that artistic strategy, the first story, "The Letter Writer," begins with the Great Migration and winds its way to the Reagan years while the last story, "A Great Day," uses a 1990s wedding to look backward. "The Letter Writer" deals with Yannis, an immigrant of 1908 who changes his name to John but never finds a place in the new world. After a series of misadventures he moves to Utah, where he makes a marginal living as a photographer. To increase his stature he writes letters to Greek newspapers about the problems that immigrants face. His initial observations and advice are practical. The letters are published and are well received by the community. But his eccentricity also shows up early as he writes a letter to the local priest advising him to cut his hair short and forsake his traditional stovepipe hat in order to look more American. The priest is not amused, and as John writes ever crankier letters to church boards, fraternal organizations, and various community institutions , other Greeks make him feel more and more alienated. A second photographer arrives in the 1920s. John loses some business...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 152-154
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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