In Wings of Wax, Author Apollo Papafrangou explores a young man’s Greek-American experience through the lens of his own life.
Meet Apollo Papafrangou
Born in Berkeley, CA and raised in Oakland, Apollo Papafrangou has lived in the Bay Area his entire life.
“It’s a hard place to leave given the weather, the arts scene, and some great people.”
His father was born in the Peloponnese, and moved the U.S. in 1980. Apollo’s mom is first generation American born, with roots in Mytilini.
“My mother’s father became a rather well-known painter in his day.”
Creativity runs in the family. His mother is an artist, and Apollo said his father “has an artistic streak as well.” He said he culls inspiration, as well as his work ethic, from his parents.
“Dad came to the States without knowing English, but eventually learned the language and earned his electrical contractor’s license, before opening his own business. He lives back in Greece now and makes paintings. Mom is always at her table creating new art. Their dedication and drive and encouragement pushes me to follow my dreams. My family is everything to me.”
Growing up Greek in the San Francisco area is a different experience than in larger Greek communities like Chicago or New York, he said, since there are no definitive Greek neighborhoods. It’s a relatively small community. When he was younger, his family attended services “sporadically” at Ascension Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Oakland. Like the protagonist in his latest book, Apollo recently reconnected with the church, and finds himself a regular churchgoer.
“I have reconnected with many people I knew as a child, which feels great.”
An avid reader from a young age, Apollo believes that writing stories was simply a natural progression. He began writing seriously when he was 12.
“I don’t think I imagined being a writer, despite taking an interest in it at such an early age. But I knew I wanted to do something in the arts, whether it was painting or acting or writing. Writing just happened to be the one thing that grew into a passion.”
Armed with his passion and enthusiasm, Apollo earned an English degree, and went on to obtain a Masters of Fine Art in creative writing from Mills College in Oakland.
Wings of Wax is actually his second published book. The first, Concrete Candy, was published when he was 15. The short story collection published by Anchor/Double Day Books in 1996, is about inner city life in Oakland. Apollo’s work has been published in various journals, and he’s been a blogger for years. He also writes poetry, and was one of the featured poets in our recent series for National Poetry Month. He describes his books as “fiction in a Greek-American voice”.
Writing Wings of Wax
Though his protagonist bears similarities to Apollo, he said the story isn’t autobiographical.
“I think we writers insert aspects of ourselves in anything we create.”
The first draft took 1-1/2 years to complete. Apollo began writing it in grad school, then spent a few years revising and rewriting. The book was completed in five years.
About Wings of Wax
Angelo Kountouvalis is a young man living with his family in San Francisco. He’s battled a chronic medical condition since he was a child. Combine that with his father’s absence — following his parents’ divorce, Angelo remained in the States with his mother, while his father returned to Greece. Angelo is a talented artist, and is attending art school. His grandfather was an artist, and he strives to channel that creativity into his own expression of life. Living with his overprotective mother and grandmother, and with the medical condition hovering over his head, Angelo is struggling to find his place in the world. He doesn’t know where he fits in. He reflects on the traditions of his heritage, and ponders his spirituality. He begins to come out of his shell after reconnecting with the church, and developing relationships there.
But there’s still one thing he must do — he must conquer his fear of flying and go to Greece. There Angelo can reconnect with his father, and find answers to questions he’s had since the divorce. Plus it would be nice to discover the secret to his father’s prowess with women.
Review of Wings of Wax
In Wings of Wax, Apollo Papafrangou creates a complex and compelling character. In Angelo Koutouvalis, we relive our own times of youthful uncertainty, and time spent pondering our own path. Angelo lives in multiple worlds. As a Greek-American, he straddles those worlds, however, Angelo navigates other straits: living in the shadow of his “manga” or “ladies man” father, though he lives thousands of miles away in Greece; while living like a caged bird at home.
When Angelo reaches the magical land of Greece, it changes his life. He finally confronts his father, though it doesn’t go as he planned. Ultimately, his wings of wax don’t melt as he rises– he soars. Greek-Americans, young, and old will enjoy this story. Add Wings of Wax to your summer reading list.
Apollo is currently working on a novel about a Greek-American man in his thirties who wants to be in a modern-day arranged marriage. He’s also completing a collection of short stories about young artists in Oakland seeking to make a life for themselves beyond the standard 9-5. He said the majority of the characters are Greek, and Angelo makes an appearance as well!
This is an author to watch. Apollo’s is a fresh and exciting voice in fiction, telling stories through the lens of his own Greek-American experience.
By: Apollo Papafrangou
Published by: Booktrope Editions (March 10, 2016)