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Literature

Alexander Rassogianis’ Growing up Greek in Chicago

As more and more Greek-Americans are sharing their stories through publishing their memoirs, readers can appreciate how varied each person’s experience has been over time. Even if a great deal of that experience is familiar to a great many of us, especially those who happen to be the children of immigrants, each individual voice helps add depth to our knowledge and understanding of our community’s history.

Growing up Greek in Chicago: The Ups and Downs of an Ethnic Identity by Alexander Rassogianis is a memoir shared in vignettes from his own personal experience as the child of immigrants. From wanting to fit in at school with a more American-sounding name to attempts to skip out on Greek School, Rassogianis highlights the life of the typical Greek-American kid of his time. The book does not tell Rassogianis’ life story in a strict chronological order but instead chooses moments and scenes from various points throughout his life to showcase the people, family members and friends, who made some impression on the young Rassogianis and some who shaped his life.

At times moving and also amusing as it skips back and forth through the author’s family history, the book includes family photos to put faces to the names he writes about and it is indeed like looking t one’s own family photo album for those of us who grew up in the U.S. as the children of Greek immigrants. There’s your brother wearing the foustanella, about to give his speech in the Greek Independence Day event at Greek School, and there’s your sister leading the dance at some festive family occasion. The Greek-American experience in Chicago that Rassogianis shares in his book will remind readers of their own Geek-American experience wherever they happened to grow up, whether it was in Boston, San Francisco, Toronto, or New York. There are so many aspects of the rich culture that we share, it is easy to relate to Rassogianis’ story even if you experienced it 50 years later than he did.

Rassogianis has roots in Sparta. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Elmhurst College and a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He taught in Chicago schools for over 15 years. Rassogianis then served as a compliance officer and investigated labor discrimination cases for the U.S. government for 20 years.

The author’s previous books include his autobiography/memoir Return to Glenlord: Memories of Michigan Summers, the nonfiction work The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Greek Immigrant in Chicago, Illinois 1900-1930, his debut novel Rainbow over Portland, and the short story collection titled Short Stories of Life, Love, and Remembrance.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Greek Immigrant in Chicago, Illinois 1900-1930, celebrates the contributions of the Greeks in the early part of the 20th century highlighting the history of those hardworking people and sharing the lessons they learned about business and life.

Rassogianis’ debut novel, Rainbow over Portland: A Spiritual Journey to Redeem Lost Love is an action/adventure/romance that begins when Nick from Chicago meets Colleen from Ireland on a train to Portland, Oregon.

Rassogianis is also the author of Clouds over the Aegean, a mystery, and he is currently working on another short story collection, titled Pathways.

Growing up Greek in Chicago: The Ups and Downs of an Ethnic Identity by Alexander Rassogianis and his previous books are all available online.

 

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