Tag Archives: Sea of Marmara

Maybe, just maybe, the genes aren't so pure

I blogged earlier today about my hyphenated heritage and how I like referring to myself as a Greek-American.

My parents were Greek. My grandparents, all four of them, were Greek. My grandparents came to this country in the early 20th century.

The object of the blog, actually, was a comment from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — an Indian-American — who’d said he disliked hyphenated ethic designations for Americans. That’s fine. He’s entitled to his view, I am to mine.


Then the thought occurred to me. It’s really occurred to me many times over the course of my life, but I’ll share it here.

My mother’s parents came to the United States from Turkey. They were ethnic Greeks. My grandfather was a merchant sailor who traveled the world before settling in Portland, Ore. My grandmother joined him later, making the arduous journey from Turkey, through Athens, then on to New York. She boarded a train for the West Coast.

The thought? It’s this: Were Mom’s parents really and truly pure Greek?

They lived on a small island in the Sea of Marmara. It was a primitive place. I don’t know this for a fact, but my assumption has been that Turks populated the island as well as Greeks. Yes, Greeks and Turks loathed each other, but some comingling among people of rival ethnicities does occur.

The villages kept no record of births. For all I know, my grandparents’ parents, and their grandparents — and this dates back to, oh, the turn of the 18th century, might have quenched their desires with people of Turkish heritage.

It’s entirely possible.

I don’t dwell on this, given that I cannot prove any of it. Thus, I’ll continue to proclaim my Greek heritage until someone, somehow, in some fashion, can prove that my ethnicity isn’t as pure as I’ve been saying it is.


Proud of my hyphenated heritage

Bobby Jindal says he’s tired of “hyphenated Americans.” The Republican governor of Louisiana and possible 2016 presidential candidate said his parents didn’t come to America to raise Indian-Americans.

So, let’s all just be known as Americans, he says.

Well, OK, Gov. Jindal. I respect your desire to be known as an American without the hyphen.

However, I am a hyphenated American and am damn proud of it.


My grandparents came here from southern Europe. My dad’s parents grew up in neighboring villages in southern Greece. Mom’s parents grew up on a tiny island in the Sea of Marmara, the small body of water that separates European Turkey from Asian Turkey; they were of Greek heritage as well.

They all came to this country to become Americans, just as Jindal’s parents came here from India.

My grandparents, though, never lost touch with their heritage and they passed it along to their grandkids.

It might be that my sisters and I have a fairly unique distinction of being “full-blooded” something, rather than a mix of various heritages. Perhaps that’s why I have this particular desire to identify myself as a Greek-American. It’s easy to say. Most people know about Greece and its profound contribution to the development western civilization.

They also ought to know about the ancient rivalry that persists to this very day between Greece and Turkey, nations that have gone to war with each other more times than I can even count.

Having proclaimed my pride in my hyphenated heritage, I take a back seat to no one in my love of the country of my birth. For that matter, all four of my grandparents — all of whom chose to move here — felt the very same way about their adopted home.

Jindal spoke to the First in the Nation summit in New Hampshire. “I don’t know about you, I’m tired of the hyphenated Americans. No more ‘African-Americans.’ No more ‘Indian-Americans.’ No more ‘Asian-Americans,’ ” Jindal said, drawing applause.

Fine, governor. That’s your call.

Me? I’ll stick with the hyphen. It’s a source of pride.