This month, we put Chicago-based Author Alexander Rassogianis in the spotlight. Meet him and learn about his latest work.
Meet Alexander Rassogianis
Alexander Rassogianis was born in Chicago, Illinois. He traces his Greek roots to Sparta. Alex earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Elmhurst College. He taught in Chicago schools for more than 15 years. In his 2nd career, for 20 years, he served as a compliance officer and investigated labor discrimination cases for the US government. He said he was greatly enriched by his study of international relations in Helsinki, Finland. In 1982, he received a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Alex is the author of 3 books: Return to Glenlord: Memories of Michigan Summers, The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Greek Immigrant in Chicago, Illinois: 1900-1930, and Rainbow over Portland. Read on to learn more about Alexander Rassogianis.
Q&A with Alexander Rassogianis
Maria A. Karamitsos: You’ve had an interesting career progression, from history teacher, to labor investigator, to author. Talk a little about this.
Alexander Rassogianis: I have always thought it was advantageous to change direction every few years or so. I had taught history for many years and I began to realize there were other avenues to pursue. The idea of doing investigative work for the US government was appealing to me, although it was not my first choice. I wanted to work in the Office of Political Asylum in the Justice Department, but there were no openings at the time. After a couple of years went by, I became immersed in labor investigative work and didn’t want to leave.
MAK: What made you want to write? And publish books?
AR: I never really intended to be a writer, although I was accustomed to writing quite a bit when I was in school. I majored in history and political science and we had 30-page research papers to do all of the time. What initially inspired me to write the first book was my desire to share my memories of vacationing with my family every summer in southwestern Michigan. I challenged myself to see how many things I could remember from those days and I made a temporary list, which I kept making additions. I presented some ideas about this subject to the Berwyn Public Library Writers Group and they encouraged me to continue with my outline and develop it into a story.
MAK: What inspired Return to Glenford? When was it published?
AR: The period I covered in this memoir, Return to Glenlord: Memories of Michigan Summers, was mostly during my elementary school years in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. They were wonderful days that I wanted to share with anyone who was interested. Many Greek families from Chicago enjoyed spending several weeks, or even the entire summer, in Berrien County. We became a community within a community. After staying in resorts for many years my father had a home built in Stevensville when I was about 5 years old. It’s still a great place to be. Return to Glenlord was published in 2013.
Related: REVIEW – Alexander Rassogianis Traces First Steps of Early Greek Immigrants in Chicago in “Entrepreneurial Spirit”
MAK: Rainbow Over Portland is fiction. Why the switch?
Rainbow over Portland is a novel. The idea that a man and a woman from opposite sides of the world could meet in the dining car of a train from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest and be very attracted to each other was intriguing and, at the same time, completely different from most romances. The man from Chicago and the woman from Ireland start a correspondence that lasts for several years. They agree to meet again, but every time they attempt to do so, something goes terribly wrong, but they never give up. It is the story of a man’s attempt to pursue and redeem a love lost from long ago and far away. It begins on the train and continues in Dublin, Florence, Munich, and Berlin. I worked on this book for a little over one year.
MAK: How have your books been received?
AR: Return to Glenlord sold very well, especially the first 2 years. I’ve had some great responses from readers who appreciated the nostalgia aspect of it and from those who had similar experiences in their grammar school days. Much of my correspondence was with Michigan residents who actually lived in the same area as we did. Some wrote that they remembered me and my buddies and called us “the boys from Chicago.”
MAK: Share a story about a reader communication, and how that affected you.
AR: In Return to Glenlord, I mentioned a young girl who used to ride horseback on an estate down the road from our house. We used to watch her all of the time, but never knew who she was. We called her the “mystery girl.” As it turned out, 60 years later, I was in a local restaurant talking to a few people about the book. A woman nearby came over and asked: “Are you the author of Return to Glenlord”? When I told her that I was she proclaimed: “I’m the “mystery girl.”She was the daughter of the owner of Tosi’s Italian Restaurant on the same road. The puzzle was finally solved.
MAK: What’s next for you?
AR: I have called my new project Reflections of Growing up Greek in Chicago. Instead of writing a biography in chronological order I have decided instead to write episodes of the periods of my life that were most influenced by my Greek family background. My goal is to make it as humorous as possible, and when I think of my Greek school days and being a member of the Assumption Church Boy Scout Troop 360, I probably have enough information to keep writing for a long time.
Connect with Alexander Rassogianis: website
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