It was the early 1970s – the “Age of Aquarius”; Americans were still fighting in Vietnam and Greece was being governed by an oppressive military regime. And Dena Kouremetis was sent to Greece for a college year abroad. She shares this experience in Athens in the coming-of-age story, “Climbing St. Friday,” a new eBook released last month at Smashwords.com.
The author recently spoke to Greek Reporter about her new memoir.
My parents, specifically my father, wanted one of his kids to experience Greece at the same age he had – he was nineteen – but this time for a year of college and not just a long visit there. Fortunately, I was chosen, since I was the one who had the grades to make it happen.
What was it like?
It was quite an adventure, going from a small Midwestern town to Athens. My mom got married young, so I think my parents thought maybe I’d find a nice Greek boy there and either bring him back or settle down there, not realizing how much more advanced and European it was compared to home. I arrived by ship and along with me came my sheltered upbringing from Muncie, Indiana. I’m sure my parents thought that most Greek girls were like me. But because I felt restricted by the very limiting but loving ethno-centric world in which I was brought up, I seized upon this time of self-discovery.
There I was in Athens, Greece after the king had been overthrown. Tanks rolled down city streets, soldiers and military symbols were evident at every turn. It was frightening and fascinating all at the same time. Life in Greece runs at a much slower pace than I was used to. Besides, when you’re 18, a year feels like a decade. By the time my parents came to “collect” me, I felt as if I had become a permanent resident.
Where did you study?
I studied at Pierce College, now known as Deree University in the Athens suburb of Aghia Paraskevi – St. Friday. What I learned could not be contained in schoolbooks alone. I learned about the world, about myself — things that are still with me to this day.
What was it like to leave?
Truth be told, I would have done anything to stay. I had to face the idea of transitioning back to my small town – surrounded by cornfields – after experiencing the time of my life in Athens. Indiana became so very different to me because I had changed. I didn’t see things through the same filter as when I left. The experience made me realize that there was so much more out there to do.
Tell me about the book.
It’s a novella-length eBook – a quick-read. I use humor to tell the story of my personal odyssey because growing up is so rife with embarrassments and lessons; you can only learn by falling down and getting up again.
Tell me about your other work.
I’ve been writing professionally for 15 years on all sorts of topics, ranging from midlife romance, celebrity profiles, real estate and more. I have been writing two columns for Examiner.com, and recently was named the Greek-American Culture Examiner as well. I’ve authored, co-authored and ghostwritten four books and was a regular columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Several of my articles and feature stories have been published in newspapers across the country, and some of my personal stories have been included in books. I am also a public speaker and professional trainer.
How is the eBook being received?
The preliminary feedback is heartening and I’m getting some really positive reviews. The school itself has pledged to promote it, so I’m hopeful it will gain a diverse audience both here and in Europe. It’s easy to read, and it sparks a sense of nostalgia to those in my age group, but I think college kids may enjoy it, too, since we all go through these watershed lessons at some point in our lives. I’m flattered that there is a broad range of interest.
I’m shopping the story to publishing houses, so hopefully you’ll see it in published book-form soon.