CALL ME ATHENA : GIRL FROM DETROIT Colby Cedar Smith
This enchanting novel in verse captures one young woman’s struggle for independence, equality, and identity as the daughter of Greek and French immigrants in tumultuous 1930s Detroit.
Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit is a beautifully written novel in verse loosely based on author Colby Cedar Smith’s paternal grandmother. The story follows Mary as the American-born daughter of Greek and French immigrants living in Detroit in the 1930s, creating a historically accurate portrayal of life as an immigrant during the Great Depression, hunger strikes, and violent riots.
Mary lives in a tiny apartment with her immigrant parents, her brothers, and her twin sister, and she questions why her parents ever came to America. She yearns for true love, to own her own business, and to be an independent, modern American woman—much to the chagrin of her parents, who want her to be a “good Greek girl.” Mary’s story is peppered with flashbacks to her parents’ childhoods in Greece and northern France; their stories connect with Mary as they address issues of arranged marriage, learning about independence, and yearning to grow beyond one’s own culture. Though Call Me Athena is written from the perspective of three profoundly different narrators, it has a wide-reaching message: It takes courage to fight for tradition and heritage, as well as freedom, love, and equality.
PRAISE FOR CALL ME ATHENA
JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD GOLD STANDARD SELECTION
AMERICAN BOOKSELLERS SEPT/OCT KIDS' INDIE NEXT LIST
CYBILS AWARD FINALIST
GOODREADS CHOICE AWARDS POETRY NOMINEE
2022 MICHIGAN NOTABLE BOOK
Gr 7 Up-Mary, a daughter of a Greek father and French mother, lives in Detroit with her twin sister and younger brothers during the Great Depression. Her dreams of a different life and a crush on an "American Boy" are in conflict with her father's desire for an arranged marriage to help the family financially. The desire to assimilate drives Mary. She wants a life where she can have choices, not expectations. Mary discovers letters written between her parents during World War I. The story moves back and forth between her parents' childhoods, meeting, and their war correspondence, and the life Mary is trying to create for herself. Their youthful goals run parallel to Mary's. A series of losses push Mary and her parents to start moving toward their dreams. Small details of the Great Depression are woven throughout---from Hoovervilles to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The author's note details her grandmother's experiences, on whom the story is based. The back matter also includes black-and-white photos of family members and a list with quotes and historical facts. VERDICT A compelling story of the tension between children and their immigrant parents and the sometimes conflicting dreams. A first purchase for larger libraries.- Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Lib., WAα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. – School Library Journal
A strong debut written with heart and strength. – Kirkus Reviews
CALL ME ATHENA is a stunning and gorgeous debut from Colby Cedar Smith. Untamed and beautifully wild, this novel in verse careens from the hilltops of France to the olive groves of Greece to the bustling city streets of Detroit. Full of love & images that conjure family, hope, hardship and holding onto our dreams when things fall away from us. With lush, lyrical language, vibrant characters & a storyline that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end, this is a book that stays with you long after the last poem. I love this story. – Ellen Hagan, author of Reckless, Glorious, Girl
Exquisite. A beautiful novel in verse. – Ruta Sepetys, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Salt to the Sea
This story of an immigrant girl growing up in Detroit in the 1930s hits every mark. Woven into the story are her parents’ histories and all the love and loss the family has faced. It will tug your heartstrings. – American Booksellers Association
Call Me Athena is a kaleidoscope of moments from the past, yet its real strength is the way it takes such different times, places, and stories and shows how commonalities like love, grief, and hope can connect a family over the course of generations. –Booklist
Highly Recommended Review; “By writing this story as poetry told by the characters, Smith's language is strong, descriptive, and so full of emotion that readers will feel the overwhelming loss of a sibling, the stomach-turning events of the war, the fear of an arranged marriage, the hostility aimed at immigrants, and the political unrest of the times.” – School Library Connection
A young adult stunner lands in Detroit. – Hour Detroit
A novel in verse, Colby Cedar Smith’s Call Me Athena follows the daughter of immigrants in Detroit, with flashbacks to her parents’ native France and Greece. – Forbes