With his father invalid after falling off the family donkey and his mother so afflicted by arthritis that that she can hardly sell her flower and vegetable seeds in order to feed the family, Angelo Vlahos leaves his tiny village in rock-strewn Arcadia and arrives in Chicago on a forged bank certificate of deposit. With all his possessions in a bundle, thirty dollars in his pocket, and a registration at a phony technical institute in Chicago, he forges with hope toward his two goals: to get a college education while working to support his family back home and to reunite with the love of his childhood, Antigone. But unforeseen obstacles throw him painfully off course and into a harrowing quandary. Faced with deportation and a crisis of the spirit, Angelo prays for his destitute family and hopes for a miracle.
By Nicholas D. Kokonis. St. Basil’s Publishers. 448 pages. Soft cover.
Early Praise and Recognition
.I am humbled by the praise the book is already receiving. Here is some: (For more Critical Praise, please click here.)
“A book to celebrate.”—Dr. Rolf Weil, President Emeritus, Roosevelt University
“Among the finest achievements of the author is that minor characters become major. Simo is simply brilliant. Dickens would have been proud to create her.”—William Graddy, Trinity International University
“Gently, Kokonis takes the reader by the throat and will not let go...”—Marilyn Boutwell, Long Island University
“…a distinguished contribution to the literature of immigration.”—Shawn Rosenheim, Williams College
“Eloquently written…an incredible piece of work.”—Sue Harrison, Author, Mother Earth Father Sky“
“…will become a classic one day.”—Patty Apostolides, Author, The Greek Maiden and the English Lord
Although Out of Arcadia can be fully enjoyed alone, it makes a complimentary set with Arcadia, My Arcadia, especially for those who care for authentic reads of lasting value. Loved passionately worldwide, Arcadia, My Arcadia received several awards, including a Homer Prize and a Gold Medal from the International Society of Greek Writers and a “Special Prize” from the prestigious Academy of Athens. By a unanimous decision of its members, the Ministry of Education also approved the Greek edition of the book for the country’s school libraries.
My thanks to all of you for your most gracious and thoughtful letters and emails, too many to answer individually. I am grateful and treasure each one of them. I hope you like Out of Arcadia at least as much as you did Arcadia, My Arcadia. I welcome your comments!
Nicholas D. Kokonis
Review by Aristotle Michopoulos, Ph.D.
I had recently the good fortune to read Nicholas Kokonis’s new novel Out of Arcadia, a sequel to his award-winning Arcadia, My Arcadia. Despite its length, over 420 pages, I found this book an absorbing, compassionate and compelling story of a young Greek immigrant, looking for the Promised Land in the 1960s. The hero, Angelo Vlahos, portrays one of the best pictures of post-WW II immigration of Greeks to the United States. His tenacity and perseverance to achieve his goal, i.e. to get a college education at an American University, is the manifestation of the secret dream harbored by thousands of Greeks that came to America for the same purpose.
Most of us have heard stories similar to the one presented by the author, however, Dr. Kokonis has the ability to tell his story in such a way that absorbs the reader, who wants to find what comes next and how the hero is going to overcome the next obstacle. Seen in a different way Angelo’s story is the story of the second immigrant wave of the 1960s and 1970s, where getting rich was not the main objective as it was in the early 1900s. The new immigrant wave was equally intent in making a living, but also going to college to get an education. Angelo Vlahos struggled to achieve both in an admirable way. He had the inner strength to sacrifice himself in the altar of family values and education. Thus the author depicts us a young hero that no longer exists, thanks to the social and economic advancements in Greece during the last thirty years. I have not heard of any similar cases of Greek immigrants lately. Most students who come for studies in the USA lately have some family support and almost no one is expected to support his family there and at the same time to get a higher education degree here.
The Greek American Community has many books dealing with the early immigrant experience, which was extremely harsh and its heroes struggled for their daily survival and then to help their families at home. Their education was usually that of the Elementary School and their goal to make a few bucks and raise a healthy family. There are dozens of books describing this struggle during that early period. Kokonis’s book is the best depiction of the post-war immigrant experience and there are not many books dealing with that period and that crucial topic. Thus Angelo Vlahos’ story is a Modern Greek odyssey, where the new Ulysses has to overcome a good number of obstacles before he reaches Ithaca. His journey is quite long and the other supportive characters show the many facets of the Greek American Community at that time. They show those sweating in the restaurants, the coffee shops and dry-cleaners or in taverns and offices, trying to earn an honest living. In the end most of them find their respective Ithaca: Barba Dino, Simo, and Irini with her family, and finally, our hero, himself. His many trials and tribulations do not bend him. On the contrary, they make him stronger and in the end his long and arduous journey is rewarded in the impeccable persona of Irini, who is a modern day Penelope. And that is another great plus of this appealing story. It is the story for something nobler, something higher than our mundane needs and in the end all these high aspirations and personal and family expectations are getting fulfilled. And the fulfillment fits so well with the topography and historical background of our hero, Angelo Vlahos, and the writer himself.
Coming from the high mountains of picturesque and legendary Arcadia, where life is filled with extremely high demands for daily survival, the hero becomes the epitome of that indomitable spirit of thousands of Arcadian immigrants who arrived to thrive in America. Dr. Kokonis offers the best depiction, through his main character, of that Arcadian spirit and becomes the light to the future immigrants of how to endure, how to fight and how to persevere in order to attain their own ultimate success.
Aristotle Michopoulos, Ph.D.
Hellenic College, Brookline, MA