- Homebound: Diaspora Spaces and Selves in Greek American Return Narratives by Evangelia Kindinger
Evangelia Kindinger offers a nuanced and adept analysis of narratives of Greek Americans' relocation to Greece, which she frames within the context of diaspora discourses. Drawing from literary and cultural studies as well as the social sciences, Kindinger seeks to answer the following questions: "Can people actually return to a place they have never lived in before? What differentiates the return journey from other journeys? What happens to categories of home(land) and (national) identity when one chooses to leave one home to return to another? What happens to the concept of 'nation-as-home' when one claims to be affiliated and emotionally connected to more than one place?" (18). Each chapter begins with a poem or text that compels the reader to reflect upon notions of exile or journey. The book is organized in five main chapters, which are further divided into subheadings. Altogether, the author examines seven primary works by second and third generation Greek American writers.
In her introduction, aptly titled "The Promise of Return," Kindinger views the concept of return as inhabiting a flexible space where multiple, conflicting understandings of belonging and identity play themselves out. Through an analysis of return narratives, the author also hopes to rescue Greek America from the scholarly periphery and offer a new, imaginative conceptualization of diaspora. She claims that Greek American writers have provided rich texts [End Page 583] from which to approach the intricate and seemingly enduring bond between Greece and Greek America.
Chapter 1, "The Home(s) of Diaspora," introduces readers to the contours of home through Roxane Cotsakis's The Wing and the Thorn (1952). Cotsakis's protagonist is a first generation Greek American immigrant who returns to his home in Greece after living abroad for 40 years, only to reach the painful realization that home is the United States. Kindinger utilizes this work to carefully and thoughtfully unpack the theoretical layers of home. She argues for a contextualization of home that moves beyond geography and location to a more capacious definition that considers the impact of emotion, nostalgia, ideology, and nation. Home can be an imagined construct—a place to which one might wish to return or an oppressive space from which one might seek refuge.
It is not until chapter 2, "Return Narratives: Late Arrivals and Early Departures," that Kindinger provides readers with a "working definition" of return narratives "as a subgenre of travel writing that deals with the intricacies of returning to one's ancestral homeland" (60). She does so through what she describes as the first return narrative in Daphne Athas's work Greece by Prejudice (1962). The returnee as a special class of traveler occupies a distinct position from that of the native Greek or American tourist in Greece. She seeks to understand how returnees are constructed as Greek Americans who are determined to stay in Greece and seek belonging by (re)claiming their ancestry, while still fluctuating between the sightseer from abroad and the committed local resident. Athas's narrator, Daphne, moves between the two, undergoing experiences as Same and Other in Greece and finally arriving at satisfaction with her transitional position. In this manner, returnees "write the diaspora and establish a transnational, diaspora consciousness" (85).
In chapter 3, Kindinger focuses on the return experiences of women through her close reading of Catherine Temma Davidson's work The Priest Fainted (1998) and Eleni N. Gage's North of Ithaka: A Granddaughter Returns to Greece and Discovers Her Roots (2004). These works, according to Kindinger, "re-interpret masculine discourses of power and ownership in the diaspora through a feminist lens, and feminize diaspora experiences" (97). In Davidson's The Priest Fainted, the narrator is a third generation Greek-Jewish journalist who returns to settle in Greece in the 1980s. She reflects upon her ancestry through the fragmented recollections of her mother's and grandmother's lives. She unearths these "unofficial" (100) life stories from the kitchen, the nucleus...