- Greek Americans: Struggle and Successby Peter C. Moskos and Charles C. Moskos
Even though one should not judge a book by its cover, in the case of the third edition of Greek Americans: Struggle and Success, the front-cover synthesis depicts the main themes and topics addressed by Peter C. Moskos. In contrast with the plain blue and white geometrics of the second edition, here we have a collage of Greek American life. A church looms in the background while a meander frames two recent photographs: dancers wearing Pontic costumes and a scene from a Greek parade. In the second photograph, lost among Greek and American flags, one can read a question: Πόσο Έλληνας είσαι; (How Greek Are You?). The answer can be found on page 175 in the words of the comedian Basile Katsikis: “We’re more Greek here than they are there [in Greece]. They’re the kosmo. Here we strive. What’s different about us is we strive to keep that piece of Greece alive.”
Peter C. Moskos undertook the work of revising Greek Americans: Struggle and Success, a cornerstone of Greek American studies written by his father, the late and honorable Charles C. Moskos. In the 1980s the first, and especially the second edition (1987), of the book charted the landscape of Greek immigrant experience bringing together a historical overview, following a blueprint set by the pioneering work of Theodore Saloutos, with contemporary facts and figures. In this context, Charles C. Moskos offered a snapshot of Greek American life grounded on a historical narrative that evolved around the telling subtitle Struggle and Success. Greek immigrants had struggled against the harsh conditions and prevailing mistrust, but had eventually managed to succeed. The celebrated case of Michael Dukakis, “the beneficiary of the good name made by Greek Americans in their home communities” (2nd ed., 184–185), illustrated the notion of success and the “distance that Greek Americans have covered in this country” (2nd ed., 184).
To revise a text almost thirty years since its original publication is not an easy task, but Peter C. Moskos met the challenge and deserves credit for this. This third edition remains faithful to the scope of the original, while being substantially rewritten and restructured. The first two chapters offer a historical narrative of Greek immigration from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. In the first, pivotal to the notion of struggle (“Early Struggles: The Greek Comes to America”), the author demonstrates his ability to revisit the original manuscript and expand themes such as nativism and the everyday life of working-class immigrants. Social mobility and the transformations of ethnicity intertwined with the end of mass migration are the main topics discussed in the second chapter, which serves as an introduction to the following three main topics (and chapters, respectively) of the book: the Greek Orthodox Church, Greek American politics, and Greek American success. The author provides ample statistical data interwoven with exemplary stories and historical background to illustrate “the survival and expansion of Greek identity” (as quoted on the book’s back cover).
This optimism leads to the final chapter of the book that in an interesting, and somewhat ironic, way follows a lengthy tradition in immigrant and ethnic accounts throughout the twentieth century by asking whether there is a future for Greek identity. As the writer accurately points out, the question itself disputes the repetitive pessimistic [End Page 201]predictions of the forthcoming end of Hellenism—an anxiety common across ethnic communities in the United States. For the author, the answer lies in Greekness being a “trump identity,” which surpasses other “biologically equal but culturally ‘lesser’ ethnic heritage” (193). If one has to chose an ethnic background “why not be associated with the people who gave rise to western civilization?” (195).
Arguing with such statements is of limited value. Peter C. Moskos is sincere in his understanding of identity as an issue of choice and his argumentation leaves no room for nuances and...