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Literature

Tassie Kalas Shares Yaya’s Big Black Purse

September 12, 2022

The Greek-American experience, though it might not seem like it, is a varied one and thankfully, more and more Greek-Americans are sharing their stories, highlighting unique, unheard voices, offering insights, and often bringing a smile to readers’ faces.

Yaya’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama by Tassie Kalas is a witty and at times poignant collection of short stories about growing up Greek-American and also about growing into your own voice. Readers will likely identify with the characters depicted in this book from their own personal experiences or those of their friends- a yiayia prepared for everything, the strict Greek-born father who won’t allow his daughter to go to a school dance where non-Greek boys might be lurking, but will happily drive her and a friend to the GOYA dance where hijinks ensue.

Kalas writes candidly about some awkward moments, a bit of culture clash and the generation gap, while touches of wit and an inspiring, positive attitude towards life highlight that “sometimes you have to grow up to appreciate how you grew up.”

Kalas’ father is from Nafpaktos and her mother was born in the U.S. with roots in Patmos on her mother’s side and Kefalonia on her father’s side. It is clear that her experience informs her stories, giving the fiction that kernel of truth that draws readers into the text. In the acknowledgements, Kalas makes it clear that the stories are fictional, though they read more like a memoir at times, the author inviting the reader into her daily life armed with a keen sense of observation and plenty of self-deprecating humor.

Tassie Kalas. Photo: Kati Hewitt Photography

Growing up in a multi-generational household, something many children of immigrants share, builds character and an outlook on life that helps an individual navigate through the difficulties along the way and through the journey into adulthood, marriage, motherhood, and even through divorce. The stories featuring the children and travel are relatable on many levels and Kalas never shies away from the complicated moments, sharing her truth and sense of humor, unflinchingly.

As noted in the book’s description, “Kalas is not afraid to bare her soul, her freakishly long middle toe, and the excess baggage she carries around in her designer purse in this debut collection of short stories inspired by her Greek life.”

According to her author biography, Kalas, a native of Houston, TX, “loves outdoor patios, frozen margaritas, and making people laugh. In her spare time, she drives off into the sunset with her mini Goldendoodle, Romeo, to visit her three grown children (wherever they are) and her parents (who continue to make everyone eat). Through the bittersweet journey of life, she still believes in happily ever laughter— and hopes you do, too.”

Kalas’ book showcases her unique voice shaped by her Greek-American upbringing and her experiences. It should also be noted that the charming chapter illustrations are by the accomplished artist Joni Zavitsanos, daughter of the late Diamantis Cassis, internationally respected and collected Byzantine iconographer.

Yaya’s Big Black Purse by Tassie Kalas is available online.

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