Helen Klonaris Author of If I Had the Wings
Laurel Book Store welcomes Helen Klonaris to read from her collection of short stories If I Had the Wings
Growing up gay is fraught with constraints and even danger in the small Greek-Bahamian community that feels its traditional culture and religious pieties are under threat. The main characters in Helen Klonaris’s poetic, inventive and sometimes 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. These include attempts to make connections between their Caribbean lives and the figures and narratives drawn from Greek mythology.
Klonaris focuses closely on family relationships, in particular the compexities of father/daughter relationships – ranging from over-bearing authority, absence and incest. Klonaris’s characters are very much part of the wider realities in Bahamian society, including the presence of unregistered immigrants from Haiti, and the interplay between fear, repression, hypocrisy and resistance in the relations between the state, the churches and the LGBT community.
Running through the stories is an intensive focus on the body. In “Flies” bodily dissolution becomes a powerful metaphor for Marjorie St George’s elite White fear that her world is disappearing with the islands’ independence, whilst in “Weeds” two young women use their bodies, quite literally, and wittily, to fight back against the thou-shall-nots of the church.