“Writers like Papanikolas should live a thousand years.”
Journal of the Int. Greek Folklore Society
The boys and men who left their Greek valley and mountain villages in the early 1900s for America came with amulets their mothers had made for them. Some were miniature sacks attached to a necklace; more often they were merely a square of fabric enclosing the values of their lives: a piece of a holy book or a sliver of the True Cross representing their belief in Greek Orthodoxy; a thyme leaf denoting their wild terrain; a blue bead to ward off the Evil Eye; and a pinch of Greek earth.
In her evocative and meticulously researched book An Amulet of Greek Earth, author Helen Papanikolas explains and examines the vibrant culture these immigrants brought with them to the new world. The Romiosini culture, as it was called, provided the foundation for their new lives and was oftentimes the cause of strife as they passed on their beliefs and traditions to successive generations of Greek Americans.
In the tradition of her fictional accounts of Greek immigrant life, Helen Papanikolas unearths the cultural beliefs and passions that compelled the Greek-American community to make its own way into the broader culture of America. Based on extensive study, personal interviews, and a lifetime of experience, An Amulet of Greek Earth is a revealing and informative chronicle of the immigrant's experience in becoming an American.
Helen Papanikolas was the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction, most recently the novel The Time of the Little Black Bird, winner of the Utah Book Award for Fiction.
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In Contours of White Ethnicity, Yiorgos Anagnostou explores the construction of ethnic history and reveals how and why white ethnics selectively retain, rework, or reject their pasts. Challenging the tendency to portray Americans of European background as a uniform cultural category, the author demonstrates how a generalized view of American white ethnics misses the specific identity issues of particular groups as well as their internal differences.
Helen Papanikolas has been honored frequently for her work in ethnic and labor history. Among her many publications are Toil and Rage in a New Land: The Greek Immigrants in Utah, Peoples of Utah (ed.), and her parents' own story of migration, Emily-George. With Small Bird, Tell Me, she joins a long and ancient tradition of Greek story-tellers whose art informs and enriches our lives.
The title of Helen Papanikolas’ second collection of short stories, The Apple Falls from the Apple Tree, is taken from an old Greek proverb and speaks of the new generation’s struggle with the vestiges of Greek customs. Gone are the raw, overt emotions of the pioneers, their bold prejudices, and, especially, the haunting black fatalism of funerals. Yet their children retain much of their parents’ culture.