All posts filed under: Greece features


Estranged tongues

Naming ghosts of patriarchy and misogyny was a feminist project to which I have committed my life with little hesitation or regard for propriety (ever the fear raised to caution people away from uttering powerful words). Except, somewhere along the way, I became more comfortable exporting this project to other domains rather than finding the words for it in my homeland. The same can be said for tolerating all other manners of abuse–racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia–for which the words felt foreign or the battles felt like they were someone else’s to fight. Is that not a form of complicity in oppression, disguised under the banner of foreignness?



I know that Easter and fathers and pre-exam jitters and saudade layer atop each other. I know that grief sneaks up on you when you are trying to pack ‘the canon’ into your head (and I know enough about feminist inquiry to question what counts as the canon, to know it has earned the quotes around it). I know how to tell grief apart by its taste. This is not the cutting, surprise grief, the kind that has made you nauseous before. It is the sweet, quiet accompaniment.



My dear friend Erin, with some help from Alexander Pope, likes to remind me that “hope springs eternal.” With all the love for Erin and poetry alike, I struggle to believe in eternally springing hope this week. One of the disorienting aspects of watching the crisis in Greece unfold from afar as an immigrant involves reckoning with joy. On Saturday night, on the eve of the referendum on austerity measures in Greece (or, depending on whom you ask, on the future of the Euro and our lives as we know them), I found myself sitting next to a two-year-old. Every four minutes, like clockwork, he would exclaim “Fireworks! … Fireworks!” Fireworks, indeed. Eight different displays of them, in fact, all visible from the same porch. We were splayed against lawn furniture, the type that defined the image of New England for me before I could identify the region on a map. Since I ever watched those Steve Martin Father of the Bride movies with Greek subtitles in the early 1990s, I have wanted an Adirondack chair, even before I knew its …


In search of human dignity in Greece

I remember when people would gather to watch the war. This usually consisted of sitting on a hilltop and watching the bombs fall not even two miles away. Hearing the sonic boom, seeing the smoke rise, then quiet. In other situations, a crowd would gather to watch a lynching or another paradigmatic punishment for a perceived war-related crime. I would find myself in these situations as a humanitarian practitioner in conflict-affected areas, and I remember being puzzled by the callousness of watching the war as though it were a film, as though it were the fictional story of someone else’s life, as opposed to a reality unfolding so close you could touch it.  There is ample research on the psychology of crowds in war, and much as I read it, I cannot get over the paralysis of watching suffering, when the act of observation is not one of documentation, assistance, or advocacy, but merely of voyeurism. Earlier today, Athens-based photographer Mehran Kahlili tweeted that “ATM shots are the new crisis porn.” All around Greece, my …


Call You By Your Name

(With thanks to Andre Aciman, for a variation of the title.)  “Very healthy, we believe you. A girl, though? Impossible! This family only has boys.” That was, allegedly, my parents’ reaction upon learning a very healthy baby girl would enter their world. My mother took great pride in that being the last time the label ‘baby’ was attached to me. “You were Roxani from the womb,” she insisted. This is the story of a name and, inevitably, of the stories we tell ourselves. Many Greeks name their children after the grandparents, a game that invites the kind of social gymnastics that need a flowchart to explain: Which set of grandparents goes first? Do the living or the dead ones have priority? What about if you have multiple children? Or just one? What about your siblings’ children? What if–gasp–you don’t like your parents’ or in-laws’ names? What if–further gasp–you just want to name your children something other than what their grandparents are called? Ρωξάνη. For a little baby (fine, a huge, 10-pound baby), my grandmother’s majestic name felt …


Our honest places

It is the smell that catches you first. You open the front door gently, a skill you learned when you were 15 and tried to glide into your house without anyone noticing you are wearing blush. You didn’t know then that mothers can detect makeup on their daughters with infrared vision, even if the teen magazines swear that it’s a “natural neutral look.” But you did know just how to turn the key so the door doesn’t squeak and which tiles to step on so you do not wake up the whole house. This is how you still enter your childhood home, even though your cheeks can shimmer without inspection.It is always the smell. It does not emanate from the people. It is steeped in the place. You have left and returned here before, but you always somehow forget about the smell. It escorts you from room to room. You feel larger than life and play Alice in Wonderland with the objects of your childhood. Were the shelves always quite so low? Were the curtains …


My Greece

Homes are committed to my memory in color. Cairo was the dance between beige and gold. Jerusalem was rosy-hued. Guatemala was terracotta. Uganda was red. Greece is a memory in green and blue. It is frappe foam at the bottom of a cup and sand in the anti-itch cream. The constant waving of arms above a salad to chase the flies away from the feta. It is sand trapped in your sunscreen, flicked onto your legs by children racing to the sea. It is grains of sand and salt at the roof of your mouth. It is sand between your toes, sand everywhere. Sunscreen spots on a Kindle. The constant turning of pages, the squint of eyes reading in the sun. The redness of a nose or a shoulder that got away from the constant lathering. Body heat on the sheets. Turning over the pillow for a sunburned cheek to meet its cool match. The strumming of a bouzouki at a tavern, the jingle of the same six summer songs. Everyone hums the lyrics. Three …