Athena in The Rathole


Non-Fiction - Memoir
308 Pages
Reviewed on 02/09/2021
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Author Biography

Demi K has been around busy, intercultural settings all her life. The child of Greek parents who moved to America when she was five, Demi found herself immersed in the restaurant world from an early age, sautéing clams and plating up pasta before she’d even finished middle school. But amidst this bustling lifestyle, trouble began to brew, and a turbulent family turned Demi to dreams of life as a creative artist, free to express and be something beyond big business. This wasn’t part of the game plan as far as her family was concerned, but Demi dared to dream bigger and act, turning her fantasies into reality through hard work and self-belief.
At nineteen, everything changed, and Demi broke free and set off for the wilds of Alaska. Though she kept her hand in the world of bars and restaurants by waiting tables and travelling around, following the tourist season, Demi began to develop her love for writing and self-expression. Now, she splits her time between this passion and owning her own restaurant, where she still works diligently as a server, coming full circle to her traditional Greek roots. In her free time, Demi enjoys relaxing in the garden of her Alaskan home and still has a passion for travel, especially back to Greece to pay homage to her heritage and inspirational history.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Athena in the Rathole by Demi K is a memoir that is culturally rich and that will stir the thoughts and emotions of readers. It begins with a reference to the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a humorous movie that is supposed to portray the typical Greek behavior, but which the author classifies as “skata,” meaning “Shit.” In this memoir, she tells the story of Athena, born to Greek immigrant parents, and deftly explores the turmoil in her soul as she navigates two worlds — her new American environment comprising of a world of abusive classmates and a Greek home where her mother treats her as a shame to the family, blaming her for the troubles they have faced. She is not what her parents wanted her to be, and her pain grows even deeper when she is sent away to a school for disturbed kids. She eventually connects with people who stand up for her, including a hooker, an art teacher, and many others. But will her mother give up in her efforts to destroy her own child?

Athena in the Rathole is a brilliantly written story, exploring historical, cultural, and social themes that are just spot-on. The dark humor is persistent and it hits the reader from the very opening pages of the story – in fact, it was the quirkiness in the author’s voice that pulled me in, as she described her people and their history, noting that most of those that immigrated to the US didn’t know how to write in their language, talk less of English and that “My father, who was pretty much a caveman, was among them.” That immediately signals trouble and I was keen on following what happens in the story. Athena in the Rathole is filled with compelling social and cultural commentaries and the author has a strong story to tell. The exciting thing is that she tells it in an exceptional manner, in a voice that is absorbing and humor that is irresistible. Demi K knows how to connect with readers, a great storyteller who opens a unique door for readers to peer into the soul of her people, into challenges that Greek immigrants faced and to the price of earning the American Dream. It is a must-read, a humorously told story that isn’t lacking when it comes to emotional depth.

Rabia Tanveer

Athena in The Rathole by Demi K is a memoir with plenty of dark humor and life lessons to keep you entertained. The story follows Athena, a young girl born to Greek parents and raised in America. The dichotomy of living in two cultures was hard on her, but she coped. What she couldn’t deal with was her overpowering mother. Athena wasn’t thin, and that wasn’t exactly how a Greek girl was supposed to be. She wanted to get away from her mother, but that seemed to be impossible. However, help came in the form of the best people who allowed Athena to grow out of the shadow of her mother and helped her realize there was more to living than just existing. But would her mother allow Athena to ever leave her nest? Or was it going to be the biggest hurdle of her life?

Athena in The Rathole by Demi K is the perfect book to read on a rainy day. The author made the story interesting while adding essence to it at the same time. It was a powerful story that drove right home for me. Growing up in difficult circumstances, trying to make the best of the situation, and trying to do better are all the things I could relate to. Athena was like a character that I could find little pieces of myself in. She was strong, determined, and ready to change her life. Athena needed to push past her circumstances, and she needed the right people to help her. She was lucky enough to find the people who helped her out, but she didn’t become complacent. It is a powerful tale of survival that the author told with grace and dignity.

Vincent Dublado

Author Demi K presents a robust, larger than life memoir in Athena in the Rathole. Athena’s Greek parents came to a booming America in 1969. Five years after she was born, she took her breech birth as a symptom that a hard life would be waiting for her, and a hard life it is. While balancing between the two cultures that make up her identity, a huge part of her growing pains is in dealing with her vicious mother, who finds her disturbed and sick. As if this is not enough, she has to navigate her way out of school bullies, a mean nun named Sister Tulip, and her abusive babysitter, Carla. She finds solace in the company of characters that somehow make her existence more bearable and make her look forward with a spark of hope. But as her mother’s dominating influence continues to haunt her, she must bolster her resolve to get away.

As far as plotting and characterizations go, Athena in the Rathole is everything that My Big Fat Greek Wedding is not. Demi K writes in a voice with ethnic charm in its humorous portrait of a young woman’s immigrant experience. It mixes contemporary social problems with identity and cross-cultural issues. You will instantly loathe Athena’s mother for her lack of empathy and for not making her relationship with her daughter conducive to Athena’s well-being. Athena may be construed as a weirdo, but she is not unwell. But one of the joys of life is finding common ground with other people unrelated to us, yet we seem to have unconsciously chosen them to be our family. Despite all the travails that Athena experiences, this memoir is warm-hearted, as it knows its way around the unseen facet of the American dream.

Viga Boland

What a clever way to hijack a reader! Demi K opens her memoir, Athena in The Rathole, telling us whatever impressions we formed of Greek behavior as presented in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding are “skata”… the crude word for excrement. How can one resist reading on to see just why she says that? Well, through Athena, the narrator, and with a small degree of humor, the author tears down any misconceptions or idealizations readers may have about the people, culture, attitudes, and behaviors of that sunny country. Athena has an alcoholic father but, compared to her foul-mouthed bullying mother, he’s an angel. While friends and family see Athena as a pretty, obedient daughter desperately in need of her mother’s love and approval, all her mother sees is a fat, stupid child who has something wrong with her and will never catch a good husband. What her mother doesn’t see is her own hypocritical, nasty, gossiping self and what her constant put-downs are doing to Athena. By the time Athena finally breaks down, tells the truth about what she’s living with, and finds understanding and care through others, readers come to hate her mother…and deservedly so.

I have no idea about the age of the author, but the “voice” is that of a young girl, making the story relatable to teens who may be experiencing similar angst with a mother. The story is rich in interesting details about Greek tastes in foods, some familiar, some odd e.g. eating cooked lamb’s head complete with its eyes! Athena shares often amusing anecdotes about sexual attraction in both teens and adults and points out how misogynistic Greek males can be, along with how willing women are to let them get away with it.
Athena in The Rathole is an easy read…though not always a pleasant one…with a good blend of narration and dialogue that is sometimes very raw, borderline crude, but always real. While I commiserate with Athena, I applaud the courage it no doubt took for Demi K to write such a personal memoir. Thanks for the insights, Demi K. You’re right; this is not even close to My Big Fat Greek Wedding!

K.C. Finn

Athena in The Rathole is a work of non-fiction in the memoir and real-life drama sub-genres and was penned by author Demi K. The work is intended for the adult reading audience, due to the presence of scenes of abusive violence, the use of explicit language, and scenes of a sexual nature. In this gripping and harrowing account of real-life events, our author takes us through the difficulties of being part of a family that has emigrated to the United States but still holds on (sometimes viciously) to its Greek heritage. Defying the perfect stereotype of the Greek young woman, Athena’s story has grit, truth, and survival against some extremely toxic odds.

Author Demi K has crafted a rollercoaster work of true events with plenty of emotional highs and lows to offer readers on its wild ride through life. One of the features which I found particularly impressive about this piece was its determination to add hope and humor to a story that is peppered with abuse and tragedy throughout. The dark comedic elements add vigor to the tale and show the author’s resilience, which makes the more harrowing moments a little easier to read as you know you’re in safe hands with your storyteller. What results from this is a full range of deep and well-expressed feelings, and some excellent character descriptions and developments in the people Athena meets and leans on along her journey. Overall, I would certainly recommend Athena in The Rathole to fans of raw and empathetic narrative voices, sociocultural issues, and for fellow immigrant readers everywhere.

George

If you enjoyed “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you will love this book. A combination of humor, sadness, triumph and a realistic depiction of Greek culture; the protagonist Athena’s story takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions that make for a great read. Many may not know that the author, Demi K, wrote this story as a memoir reflecting her own experiences of mental and physical abuse, challenges learning a second language and the emotional impacts she faced having to wake up every day. Without spoiling the details of this story, I will say that you will not want to put it down from start to finish. I hope this book reaches other women and teens who may experience what Athena experiences, so they can gain inspiration and hope from Athena’s ability to never give up and never lose her sense of humor throughout. This book will leave you speechless and with greater perception of what’s worth fighting for in life. I sincerely hope Demi K publishes a sequel to follow this amazing book!

Maria Clement

This was an excellent book and keeps you engaged from the first page to the last page! A must read!