UT professor releases memoir on Greek upbringing, life in U.S.Written by Kevin Moore | | email@example.com
Ikaria is a small island located in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece, not far from the place where the mythical Icarus is said to have plunged into the water after attempting to fly too close to the sun.
It is also the birthplace of Dr. John Chrysochoos, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Toledo, and the subject of his book “Beyond the Blue Ikarian Sea: Life in Greece and North America,” released in an updated second edition earlier this year.
As told through the lens of a fictional character named Aris, “Beyond the Blue Ikarian Sea” serves as Chrysochoos’ personal memoir, a social commentary and a history of the island of Ikaria as well as high education.
The first edition of the book was published in 2008 and follows Aris’ (Chrysochoos’) childhood and teenage years in Ikaria during World War II, his experience as a refugee in Palestine during the Greek Civil War during the final years of World War II, his undergraduate studies at the University of Athens and subsequent service in Greek Royal Navy, his graduate education in Canada, and finally his life as an academic in the United States, first at Harvard, then Chicago and ultimately at UT.
“I had so many experiences in my life and so many topics to present,” Chrysochoos said. “I use the book to detail a number of issues that have been bothering many people. For example, Chapters 15 and 16 deal with education — higher education and university life. I look at tenure, academic freedom and adjunct exploitation. I talk about how the unionization of faculty helped change working conditions. Tenure is an extremely important issue. A lot of people are against tenure and are trying to tear it down today. While some people do abuse it, most tenured professors work 60 to 70 hours a week, if not more.”
Chrysochoos’ arrival in the United States in the late 1960s meant that he was present during one of the most transformational eras in American history.
“When I first arrived to Toledo in 1967, I was surprised with the way women were treated; some women faculty were making much less than what their male colleagues were making when I first came in,” he said. “The whole thing struck me as odd when I got here, namely racism and sexism. Back home racism did not exist because everyone was Greek.”
Chrysochoos came to Toledo after a series of race riots across the country, and he was living in the U.S. during the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
“I couldn’t believe someone would kill somebody for disagreeing with them,” he said.
Chrysochoos, now 80, said he uses writing as a way to stay active and to keep his mind in shape. He has stayed pretty active the last five years. He published “In Reason We Trust,” a critique and commentary on American politics, in 2009 and a people’s history of Ikaria entitled “Ikaria: Paradise in Peril” in 2010. He decided write this second edition for “Beyond the Ikarian Sea” in order to discuss some of the substantial changes that have occurred in Greece since 2008.
“I had to make some changes to the book first published in 2008,” Chrysochoos said. “I deleted some material that was no longer relevant and added later chapters that address the current political and economic issues facing the United States and Greece, specifically the European financial crisis. We have some huge problems in Greece today. There is 60 percent unemployment among young people so they are either leaving Greece or living with their parents. But pensions have been reduced by 40 percent for those parents and grandparents who have to support these unemployed young people. It is a bad situation. Suicide is on the rise in Greece, and that had been unheard of in Greece.”
Chrysochoos’ writing is a mixture of his personal observations, research and first-hand investigation.
“By writing in the third-person point of view — through Aris — I can be more objective about my personal experiences. He’s me, but I can treat him more objectively,” he said.
“Beyond the Ikarian Sea” contains over 80 references, including the seminal works in this field of study such as “Rebels and Radicals: Icaria, 1600-2000″ by Anthony Papalas. Chrysochoos and his family visit Ikaria every two or three years and they are members of the Cleveland chapter of the Pan-Icarian Brotherhood of America, which allows Chrysochoos to stay connected to the Ikarian perspective on events.
“I hope people enjoy this book,” Chrysochoos said. “There is lots of material and good information, but I hope it is presented in a readable way. It opens with Aris strolling through Toledo and his mind being taken to his home in Ikaria. Hopefully, they will appreciate the issues I present in education and society.”
Despite all the energy he has that allows him to publish a book every two years, Chrysochoos recognizes he is getting and older. The topic of his next book, “Longevity,” slated for release in March 2015, will cover issues affecting the elderly.
“I am 80 years old and there are things I need to start thinking about,” he said. “People seldom think about elderly issues until they themselves are elderly, and people need to start thinking about these things sooner. In Longevity, I look at healthcare, costs of living, elderly-youth relations, illness, and a booming senior population. One theme I focus on are Blue Zones. These are five areas around the world where people seem to live longer and have the highest populations of octogenarians, nonagenarians and centenarians: Sardinia, Costa Rica, Loma Linda in California, Okinawa and Ikaria. Some claim it is due to diet, but I think it is mainly lifestyle such as in Ikaria where they live on ‘Ikarian Time’ where people come and go as they please with no strict time schedule and no anxiety.”
Beyond the Ikarian Sea and Dr. Chrysochoos’ other books are available on Amazon and www.rosedogbookstore.com. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.