Character Dear Reader Letter: Christina Farkas Zannos from Suzanne Jenkins’ ‘The Greeks of Beaubien Street’
January doesn’t have to be all about freezing temperatures and nothing to do! Literarily Speaking will be hosting authors from January 2 – 25 with a fun way to get through the winter doldrums. We are asking authors to have their characters write letters to their readers. If your character had a voice (and of course they do!), what would they like to say to their readers? Now they finally have a say! Put on a hot toddy, light the fire and read these way cool letters to YOU, our dear readers!
Today’s guest is Christina Farkas Zannos from Suzanne Jenkins’ The Greeks of Beaubien Street!
Christina is the late wife of Gus, mother of Christopher and Jill. Christina died in the early eighties in a car crash. Can’t say much more than that due to spoilers, but she has a lot more going for her than meets the eye.
You don’t read much about my life in this book. After Ms. Jenkins gets done with me, I’m basically a boring housewife who bakes bread in the morning and flees to Plymouth to visit my son who’s got Down Syndrome. When you read about me being dishonest, please remember it’s just a small part of who I am, not that whole mess back in Greektown. It really didn’t define me! It was awful for everyone, but it was worse for me! I should give you some background, explain how I was raised, and maybe that will help you understand me; help you not to judge me.
I was born in the fifties. Mid-century was a time where Greeks were branching out, moving to the suburbs, feeling their way past the insular society they’d built after coming to the United States. My family had one thing in mind and that was building wealth. My father was a steel maker. Literally.He was an engineer who went to Athens University and came to the US to reorganize the steel mill at Ford Motor. The Rouge Plant was a vibrant, glowing machine back then. Traffic on the Rouge River was heavy twenty-four hours a day, with barges carrying coal, and huge cargo ships filled with iron ore and limestone. Everything needed to manufacture a car was done right there. You can imagine how my mother felt when years later my father-in-law bought me a Buick to drive. It was a slap in the face to my late father.
Anyway, my parents didn’t think they could have children and then one day; surprise! Unfortunately, my father died when I was six. Afterward, my mother focused her attention on me, and I mean, every, waking minute. Fortunately, the same year I met Gus at Sunday school and he became my best friend. My mother planned on us getting married; it was as close to an arranged marriage that I could have. Although the Zannos’ were shopkeepers, they weren’t affluent and that made her crazy. Poor Eleni Zannos cringed every time my mother came around; she’d look down her nose at the grocery they owned, almost sneering in disgust. She whispered to my grandmother that Gus’ family was peasant stock. My mother was suffocating. She insisted on bathing me and picking out my clothing long after it was appropriate. I think I finally rebelled when I was ten that I could do it myself. When I ate, my mother hovered over me, watching every bite I took. I often wondered if she planned it on purpose, so eating would become a problem for me and I wouldn’t have the weight issues she did.
I grew up with Gus. We knew each other’s passions and dreams, the fears and dreads. Friends don’t always make lovers, however. We were miss-matched from the beginning. There wasn’t any passion there for me at all. For him, I’m embarrassed to say because it makes me sound like I’m an egotistic bitch, well; he was in love with me like a man is supposed to love a woman. But he just didn’t do it for me in bed. Boy, that sounds awful when it’s said out loud! I’m so sorry. But remember, I didn’t know that’s what it was. I thought I was responding the way a modest woman responded. And then I found out that sex could be different, it could be passionate and wonderful, thrilling and all consuming. Just not with my husband.
When my son was born, I thought my life was ending. Everything about the pregnancy was a contradiction. I was thrilled, and terrified. Excited and dreading it. No wonder there was trouble! I’ll never forgive myself. But, as you will learn in the sequel Ms. Jenkins insists on writing,Oval Beach, due out next spring, not everything is as it seems. I did what I had to do to make my life tolerable. There was no other way.
Well, I guess I’ve said enough. Please don’t judge me too harshly. I didn’t start out wanting to betray anyone. I rather slid into my life without thinking about it too much. Isn’t that what women did back then? You allowed things to just happen. I was passive enough not to have much say in my life, until I wanted something that no one was going to take from me. That was when the trouble began.
Suzanne Jenkins is the author of the Pam of Babylon Series. The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a new series about a Greek homicide detective who grew up above the family grocery store in Greektown, Detroit. Jenkins has fond memories of growing up in a Greek American household in the suburbs of Detroit. She currently lives in the west Michigan lakeshore area with her husband, two dogs and two sheep.
Visit her website at www.suzannejenkins.net.
Nestled below the skyline of Detroit you’ll find Greektown, a few short blocks of colorful bliss, warm people and Greek food. In spite of growing up immersed in the safety of her family and their rich culture, Jill Zannos doesn’t fit in. A Detroit homicide detective, she manages to keep one foot planted firmly in the traditions started by her grandparents, while the other navigates the most devastated neighborhoods in the city she can’t help but love. She is a no nonsense workaholic with no girlfriends, an odd boyfriend who refuses to grow up, and an uncanny intuition, inherited from her mystic grandmother, that acts as her secret weapon to crime solving success. Her story winds around tales of her family and their secret laden history, while she investigates the most despicable murder of her career.
The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a modern tale of a family grounded in old world, sometimes archaic, tradition, as they seek acceptance in American society. They could be any nationality, but they are Greek.
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