Accepted Paper:

'Keep our traditions': community books by Greek-American immigrants  


Maria Kaliambou (Yale University)

Paper short abstract:

I will focus on one particular group of publications by Greek Americans, namely the “Community Books” (such as photo albums, yearbooks, commemorative journals etc.). These mostly ephemeral publications strengthen the feeling of belonging to the community, and aim to “keep the traditions”.

Paper long abstract:

The books immigrants chose to take with them demonstrate personal attachment, enliven memories, and can be symbols of home. Moreover, in their new home, immigrants produce, distribute and read books related to their country of origin; these literary practices mirror their desire to stay connected with their homeland. My paper investigates the book culture of Greek-American immigrants. As soon as Greeks began immigrating to the United States, Greek-American publishing houses—mostly family businesses—appeared in urban centers such as New York, Chicago, and Boston. Their broad repertoire of books and newspapers aimed to fulfill all the reading needs of Greek immigrants. I will focus on one particular group of publications, namely the "Community Books". Almost every Greek community in America has its own publishing agenda: a calendar or a yearbook, a community photo album, a journal, or so. All these, mostly ephemeral publications, were full of advertisements, and many conveyed folklore wisdom such as information about folk music and dance, religious or secular festivals, legends and myths etc. They are full with personal photos of the members of the community, thus, they can be a great source for family history as well. All these albums, advertisements and publications strengthened the feeling of belonging to the particular community. The subtitle of one advertisement reads: "Our primary aim is to keep our traditions" which demonstrates the ideological perspective and social role these communities and their publications played in the lives of immigrants.

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Books create a home: exploring books and reading practices as domestic symbols and rituals