Carved in Stone
By Basil S. Douros
Five and Dot Corp.
Reviewed by Sophia Nibi
|A Well Written Novel about Real People and Their Place in History
I first came upon CARVED IN STONE-- THE GREEK HERITAGE, by Basil S. Douros while researching for an article on the 100th Anniversary of the Holy Trinity Parish in Lowell, MA. Last year the Lowell Greek American Community celebrated not just a milestone, but also the memory of the early Greek immigrants who emigrated from the cradle of civilization and settled in one of our country's most famous mill towns, shaping its history for 100 years. CARVED IN STONE, a novel based on the history of the author's family's immigration to America, honors all the early Greek settlers on America's shores and as such all immigrants who left their home and families for the unknown new world. I found the coincidence of learning about the book while writing about the Lowell immigrants fascinating, because a great part of CARVED IN STONE takes place in Boston and involves another historic parish in New England, St. John the Baptist in the South End, where "the immigrants had settled in a ten-block area of tenement buildings, forming their own ghetto-like community."
Reading CARVED IN STONE evoked cherished memories of stories heard from my immigrant family. I was immediately immersed in the book because my dad's name, and that of my brother, was Vasilios, the name of one of the first characters we meet in the opening sentence of the novel, and because many of the incidents in the story had a familiar ring to it. In Basil Douros' description of the people in the novel I recognized not just members of my family but of the Greek American community at large. He captures the spirit of the Greek immigrant (and his progeny) at the beginning of the century (the last century) so accurately. For example, "I don't like it when anyone tells me I have to do something," one character, Soterios, informed at one point in the book. This simple sentence can be attributed to just about every Greek and American of Greek descent!!
A Novel Sensitive to Our Heritage and Culture
Basil S. Douros has written a novel sensitive to our heritage and culture. Set in two continents, in two very different worlds, during a pivotal time in the history of both Greece and the United States, the story offers a nostalgic glimpse of life in the village and in the big city and of the different lives of women and men in two distinct cultures. It portrays the proud, stubborn, determined, family oriented immigrants who struggled to maintain family values, the Hellenic heritage and the Orthodox Christian Faith in a foreign environment where they were looked upon with curiosity and prejudice. And, as we well know, they succeeded because of their determination and sacrifices and because America is indeed, as they believed, a land of opportunity.
|Today, a century later, their legacy is remembered with pride by the Americans they produced, proud and admired citizens who contribute to all segments of society with the same honesty, integrity and determination (and stubbornness!) their ancestors exhibited.
CARVED IN STONE is a book to be read again and again. Once for its captivating content. Then, again, as a refresher course of what we learned on yiayia's and papou's knees---love and arranged marriages; dowries; the Turkish occupation; the evil eye; the pain of leaving family behind. And again, to learn the history of the early immigrants in a country they would not recognize today, a country which has overcome many of its own shortcomings and offers new immigrants opportunities which allow them to maintain their dignity and identity. Today in America we celebrate ethnic identity. At the turn of the last century ethnic identity was suppressed: "Georgios Pappageorgios is a Greek name, not an American name," advised the well meaning priest following a first son's baptism at St. John's in Boston. "Let me record it as George Pappas" he told the confused and hurt father who adamantly refused ("If I have to apologize or give him a phony name in order to register his birth, then I will not register him in your City Hall of Boston") "creating serious problems in later years for the boy who grew up to be called George". Today, Haralambos, the father of that infant, whose grandfather was a priest, would be so proud that a young man with the long name of George Stephanopoulos, whose father and grandfather were also priests, grew up to be a close advisor to the President of the United States. And the book should be read one more time, to experience the aroma of the lentil soup with its bay leaves and vinegar, eaten with freshly baked bread!
A Book for All of Us
|Sophia Nibi is a freelance writer who teaches courses on "How to Write your Autobiography" and has assisted in the writing and publication of personal histories. She lives in Wellesley, MA and can be reached at email@example.com|