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Literature

The Book ‘Piato’ and the Greek-American Community

BOSTON – Author Konstantina Tassopoulou, who has studied journalism and music, is the author of books for young and old. One of her most recent books is ‘To Piato’ (The Dish) which deals with the issue of Greek migration to the United States in the ‘50s.

In the second part of the book, she makes extended reference to The National Herald, to its historicity and contributions to Hellenism in America. Her interview follows.

The National Herald: Could you please inform the Hellenes of America about your book ‘The Dish’? What is the inspiration behind it?

KT: The inspiration behind ‘The Dish’ dates years back, when I was little. When I used to visit my grandparents in the village and I would usually get lost looking at their house – the walls, the frames, the pictures. A picture of my grandma, when she was a young mother holding her children in a tender hug and a bit further back there was a picture of my grandfather, young, holding nothing and with nothing to hold on to. I remember one day, I asked my grandmother why my grandfather seemed so detached and far away from everyone else and then she explained to me that when the picture was taken my grandfather was far away. In the United States of America. An emigrant who had gone there to work and help in that way those who stayed behind. Them.

This story, this explanation, this truth, stayed with me, inside me, ever since I was a kid, so I decided it was time for it to become a book.

A chapter of the book ‘To Piato’ dedicated to the Greek immigrants.
(Photo provided by Konstantina Tassopoulou)

TNH: Why give the title ‘The Dish’? For whom is it written?

KT: It is written for children and adults. For everybody really. But mostly I wanted for children to read it, to talk to them about a topic that is not usually discussed anymore: Greek emigration to the United States during the 1950s. It was common sense for me to give it the title ‘The Dish’, since a great number of emigrants, when they first got to the United States, were dish washers. ‘The Dish’ as a title it is connected with the dishes the emigrants used to wash. But also, the dish in a sense, is connected with the struggle for food. Isn’t a dish with food a basic, daily human need?

ΤΗΝ: Could you name a few of the chapters included in this book?

KT: The Dish includes many extraordinary and unique chapters: ‘An extraordinary journey’, ‘An extraordinary restaurant’, ‘An extraordinary place’ – and it goes on. Every chapter in its name has the word ‘extraordinary’, because everything seems extraordinary to the main character Giorgos, who experiences them for the first time and who is simultaneously a kid and a grandfather!

TNH: What made you want to cover the subjects of emigration and the Greek community?

KT: My grandfather. His self-induced sort of exile in America, his laborious story, in which for years he was washing dishes in order to educate his children and to be able to give us all a better life. His constraints. That feeling made me write this book. And a sort of fear that when these last grandparents are gone and can no longer narrate these stories about the emigration they lived, who will narrate those stories to the children of today?

TNH: Could you please talk a bit more about the chapter referring to the National Herald?

KT: The National Herald is a very important part of the ‘Omogenia’ – the Greek-American community. So there was no way there wouldn’t be a reference about it. In the second part of the book, where there is some encyclopedic information and photographs, there is also the reference to the National Herald, to its historical importance, and to the fact that there is a street in America with its name.

The part of the book ‘To Piato’ which is dedicated to the National Herald. (Photo provided by Konstantina Tassopoulou)

TNH: Could this book be considered an educational handbook for the Community’s schools?

KT: Of course it could. It is in fact something we have initiated with the publisher, Mrs. Sophia Thanou – a deep desire of ours: to be able to hand the book to teachers, who can utilize it in classrooms, in schools – in the Greek-American community as well as in schools in Greece.

TNH: How and from where can someone who is interested obtain the book?

KT: Through the e-shop of the Publishing Company Ydroplano:

https://ydroplanobooks.gr/product/to-piato. The process is easy and the book is delivered with no delays.

TNH: How do you perceive Greek-American community? What are we to you?

KT: Greece outside of Greece, that keeps inside her most of Greece.

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