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First ever literary fiction by a Greek-Bahamian writer: Helen Klonaris’ literary debut

Peepal Tree Press is delighted to announce the publication of a book of short stories uniquely shining a light on the Greek community of the Bahamas, making connections between Caribbean lives and the figures and narratives drawn from Greek and African mythologies. Its author, Helen Klonaris, was recently shortlisted for the region's prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize. If I Had the Wings is Helen Klonaris’s first fiction book, though she has published very widely in anthologies and magazines. 

If I Had the Wings reveals the constraints and dangers of growing up gay in a small Greek-Bahamian community that feels its traditional culture and religious pieties are under threat. The main characters in Helen Klonaris’s lyrical, inventive, and at times transgressive collection of short stories confront this reality as part of their lives. Yet there are also ways in which young women in several of the stories search for roots in that tradition – to find within it alternatives to the dominant influence of the Orthodox Church. 

“The church has been deeply wounding to me as someone who does not conform to gender and heterosexual norms,” says Klonaris. “I’m critical of it, and I also have a great love for the church and its central narrative of birth, death, and resurrection. It’s an ancient story, archetypal. But the way it has been interpreted by Christian theology can be troubling, particularly for women and LGBT folks. With so many of us being destroyed spiritually, emotionally, and physically by fear and hatred in our extended communities, I craved a new story, one that didn’t end with any of us being nailed to a cross.”

Klonaris, who started her journey as a social activist at the age of 12, later becoming one of the first out LGBT activists in the Bahamas, began writing fiction because she wanted to imagine a better story. “I believed in change, but we always seemed to be re-enacting the same conflicts and oppressions we were fighting against. Stories have a way of taking us deeper into the consciousness of human beings, and of the culture we create. I wanted to know what it takes to change that consciousness, of a single human being and of the communities we’re a part of.”

Klonaris’s stories are rooted in her experiences as a girl and woman growing up within the Greek immigrant community and the larger Bahamian society. Colonialism, religious fundamentalism, homophobia, and sexism are all part of the ‘big story’ her characters live inside and struggle to escape. But even flight requires a wrestling with who we are and who we think we are not. White and black, Greek and African, male and female, profane and sacred, everyday now and mythic past all encounter and transform each other in this poetic and mythopoeic work.

Helen will be launching If I Had the Wings in Nassau,Oakland, Mendocino, and LA see here for all the details!

If I Had The Wings is available from all your usual booksellers, but if you are buying online then order direct from the Peepal Tree website – Helen Klonaris gets higher royalties, and more goes back into the pot for publishing fantastic new books like this! Check out Peepal Tree's other brand new releases here.

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