“Writers like Papanikolas should live a thousand years.”
Journal of the International Greek Folklore Society
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. Although they live far from the old Greek towns, we see their rivalries, envy of the successful, and hubris as they respond to their experiences of intermarriage, old age, and loss. The exoticism and color of immigrant life wanes as each generation that follows those first patriarchs and matriarchs becomes “more like the Americans.” These are stories of the long passage of immigration—from accommodation, to the straddling of two cultures, and ending with assimilation. They are stories of a particular people, but they could be about any people.
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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The second edition of To Kill a Man’s Pride builds on the success of the previous edition of this anthology of South African short stories by retaining most of stories, but also featuring more women writers and new male voice, to make it more representative. The milieu remains unambiguously South African, with some stories set in rural areas such as the village, farm or dorp, and others in urban centers such as the big city, suburb or township.
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.
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.