Greek to me

We’re in Ancona, on the Adriatic in these days, staying with Maurizio’s family. On Thursday we’re going to Greece to visit  our friends Yiannis and Jo Ann Pantanizopoulos who have a house by the sea. Their handsome, kind and very droll son Niko was the inspiration for my Irma’s husband, also Niko. You see them in this picture taken at a recent Easter celebration.

Thinking of them brings back a vivid childhood memory. It was the years of brutal Greek dictatorship and my father was sharing his lab in Rahway, NJ, with a brilliant Greek research chemist, exiled from his country for reasons my father explained tersely were “his own business.” This Greek, whom I vaguely remembered was called George, had received a cassette from home via a circuitous chain of connections. But it was an unusual speed and size and he had no way to hear it.

We had a tape player. My father borrowed others and George came over with the cassette wrapped like a precious relic. I could stay with them in the living room, my father had agreed, on the condition that I not pester anybody with questions. After much discussion, the men rigged a system that slowly rendered the gibberish more human-sounding. At a certain point, George stiffed and said quietly, “One more.” My father carefully threaded a new tape and began the final transfer. A young man was speaking; I understood that much. “My brother,” George whispered. Then an older woman. He covered his eyes.

My father drew me into the kitchen. From there, peeking around the doorway, I could see George hunched motionless on the couch as more voices rose from the tape.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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