TITLE: Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit
BY: Colby Cedar Smith
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PUBLICATION: August 17th 2021 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
NOTES: I received an e-copy from the publisher and author via Netgalley. This did not affect my opinions regarding the book in any way.
Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit is a beautifully written novel in verse loosely based on author Colby Cedar Smith’s paternal grandmother. The story follows Mary as the American-born daughter of Greek and French immigrants living in Detroit in the 1930s, creating a historically accurate portrayal of life as an immigrant during the Great Depression, hunger strikes, and violent riots.
Mary lives in a tiny apartment with her immigrant parents, her brothers, and her twin sister, and she questions why her parents ever came to America. She yearns for true love, to own her own business, and to be an independent, modern American woman—much to the chagrin of her parents, who want her to be a “good Greek girl.”
Mary’s story is peppered with flashbacks to her parents’ childhoods in Greece and northern France; their stories connect with Mary as they address issues of arranged marriage, learning about independence, and yearning to grow beyond one’s own culture. Though Call Me Athena is written from the perspective of three profoundly different narrators, it has a wide-reaching message: It takes courage to fight for tradition and heritage, as well as freedom, love, and equality.
Call Me Athena is like a sad song that I can’t help but listen to even though it makes me sad because it touches my soul and gives me a sliver of truth.
I had the opportunity to both read and listen to Call Me Athena. The audiobook and e-book are in Read Now and Listen Now and since I rarely listen to audiobooks, I thought it would be better if I have a written version of the book as well. It was a good decision on my part. Because Call Me Athena is written in verse and I wouldn’t have known that if I only listened to it. I love the narration did in the audiobook. Yes, it also sounded poetic and very dramatic. I really liked it. The narrator did a great job. But seeing the words written in verse also gave me a satisfying feeling because I generally love poetry.
Call Me Athena is historical fiction. It is based on the life of Mary, the author’s grandmother. We are told the story of Mary as the daughter of a Greek and French immigrant struggling to make a life in 1930s Detroit. I say it over and over, I’m no fan of history, but there is always a story, a peek in the past, that captures my attention, heart, and soul. Since I’m not so familiar with the history, I can only say that the author painted a very vivid picture of how the immigrants used to live during the Great Depression and war. It was a hard part of history, and the author indeed showed that through Mary’s eyes.
Mary’s personal life is no rainbows. Her struggles and dreams and hopes were so very real, it was hard to read or listen to her sometimes. And indeed, it is fitting that this story is written in verse, because Mary’s life is poetry. Her story will remain in me for a long, long time. Even though she lived in a dark times, I couldn’t help but find hope in her story. She gives me hope. It’s like listening to a very sad song, it makes you cry but it also gives you an unexplainable joy because touches your soul.
But this book has three point of views and I loved that it is this way. It is great to see the world through the eyes of Mary and her two siblings. I didn’t just get to sympathize with Mary, but also with the whole community of immigrants that I will never meet. The other two perspectives are very important to the story and added some elements that really made the whole book rise to the next level. I love it. Also, the three characters with point of views are so distinctive from each other, I never had a problem recognizing whose POV I’m reading or listening to.
RATING: 4 blissful pages with lilies
Overall, this book is just amazing. I think everyone, no matter what their preferences in reading are will enjoy this book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Colby Cedar Smith grew up in the Midwest, and she still dreams of the cold northern woods and the smell of lake water. She holds degrees from Colorado College and Harvard University, and has spent the last fifteen years teaching creative writing and storytelling workshops in schools, art museums, community centers, and corporations. Her award-winning poems have been published in Bellevue Literary Review, Harper Palate, Mid-American Review, Pleiades, Potomac Review, Saranac Review, and The Iowa Review. In 2020, Colby received a New Jersey Artist Fellowship in Poetry. Her debut novel, CALL ME ATHENA: GIRL FROM DETROIT, is slated for release August 2021 from Andrews McMeel.
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