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Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite
Athena in the Rathole by Demi K is a memoir that is culturally rich and that will stir the thoughts and emotions of readers. It begins with a reference to the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a humorous movie that is supposed to portray the typical Greek behavior, but which the author classifies as “skata,” meaning “Shit.” In this memoir, she tells the story of Athena, born to Greek immigrant parents, and deftly explores the turmoil in her soul as she navigates two worlds — her new American environment comprising of a world of abusive classmates and a Greek home where her mother treats her as a shame to the family, blaming her for the troubles they have faced. She is not what her parents wanted her to be, and her pain grows even deeper when she is sent away to a school for disturbed kids. She eventually connects with people who stand up for her, including a hooker, an art teacher, and many others. But will her mother give up in her efforts to destroy her own child?
Athena in the Rathole is a brilliantly written story, exploring historical, cultural, and social themes that are just spot-on. The dark humor is persistent and it hits the reader from the very opening pages of the story – in fact, it was the quirkiness in the author’s voice that pulled me in, as she described her people and their history, noting that most of those that immigrated to the US didn’t know how to write in their language, talk less of English and that “My father, who was pretty much a caveman, was among them.” That immediately signals trouble and I was keen on following what happens in the story. Athena in the Rathole is filled with compelling social and cultural commentaries and the author has a strong story to tell. The exciting thing is that she tells it in an exceptional manner, in a voice that is absorbing and humor that is irresistible. Demi K knows how to connect with readers, a great storyteller who opens a unique door for readers to peer into the soul of her people, into challenges that Greek immigrants faced and to the price of earning the American Dream. It is a must-read, a humorously told story that isn’t lacking when it comes to emotional depth.