Writing Wednesday: Greek Stereotypes — If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em … Or Something Like That

6 Apr


“Stereotype” is a dirty word.  Stereotypes of ethnicities and races come with all sorts of negative connotations—the types of assumptions that are too dangerous to even give examples of, but you all know what I’m talking about.

I remember years ago learning that even “positive” stereotypes are negative.

Really?  How can that be?

I’ve been stereotyped.  Because of my last name, people make all sorts of assumptions about the literature I read and the language I speak.

“Did you read the new translation of The Odyssey?”

“Can you tell the class how to pronounce this Greek word?”

“I can’t remember who the god of wine is.  Stephanie, who was it again?”

If it happened once in a blue moon, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But it happens often enough that it’s at times made me insecure in my identity.  Should I know that there’s a new translation of Homer’s epic poem?  What does it say about me that I don’t know?

Sometimes it works to my advantage, though.  I’ve received opportunities to write about Greek things by virtue of my ethnicity.  That is a positive, but it is also a negative.  Is that the only reason I was selected?, I can’t help but wonder….

“Why do you write about Greek things?” my mom, who is not Greek by blood, asked me.

My lit teacher has a theory that literature is reparative.  We write to rectify, to make ourselves whole.  She may be right.  I write about Greek things because I don’t feel as Greek as others seem to think I should—which makes me think I need to feel more Greek—and my writing seeks to explain, to justify, even to rectify.

Also, I figure if I can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  People have been making stereotypes about my interests and knowledge of Greece for decades.  That’s not likely to change.  The stereotyping comes from a good place: people love Hellenic history and Greek culture.  Why not give the people what they want?  After all, I like Greek culture too, even if I don’t always know as much about it as some people assume I do.


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