By Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Kimberly K. Robeson embarks on a quest in her debut novel, “The Greek Persuasion,” that examines the gradation of sexual orientation and the complication of mother-daughter relationships. Through her protagonist, Greek American professor Thair Mylopoulos-Wright, the novel travels through family generations and journeys across the globe on a quest for wholeness while she experiences several surprising and stirring romantic relationships.
Consumed by a myth about Zeus, soul mates and a magic sword, Mylopoulos-Wright gains admiration for the influence of her family’s ancestresses but decides to fashion her own path beyond the traditional. Engaging in relationships with both men and women, she gains new insight into her quest for completion.
In “The Green Persuasion,” Robeson takes readers on an emotional journey through exotic settings and complex desires that will leave readers turning pages well into the night. The author navigates the landscapes of a port city in Egypt, a tranquil Greek Island and its mainland, cities in the United States, as well as the complicated human heart.
Throughout her life, Robeson has lived in many locales around the globe but has made Encinitas her home for many years. Now, a professor at Los Angeles Valley College, Robeson will be making a San Diego debut reading of “The Greek Persuasion” at the Carlsbad Library on June 9.
“My goal [in reading this novel] is that some people that are a little more close-minded in the world today can just experience love across all the different boundaries that we’ve set up.”
Robeson said that this novel is personal as she began writing the novel from experiences she had while growing up with her mother and grandmother.
“My novel is about matriarchs, women, motherhood and choices,” Robeson said. “I’m Greek-American and it was greatly influenced by Plato’s ‘Symposium,’ a myth about Zeus separating people. I read that story in college and it sat with me for many years and then I saw ‘Hedwig and The Angry Inch’ when it first came out and that was the beginning of me thinking about what it would be like if you had a protagonist that was looking for love but was not going to be held down by family, her traditions, and [instead looks] for love across gender, sex, race, age and religion.”
Robeson started a foundation with the background that she knew and from there she let her character go on her own journey and had a lot of surprises along the way.
“It’s women’s fiction, but at this point, a lot of men have read it and really enjoyed it. Although I didn’t think of men as part of my target audience, many of my colleagues that are straight men read it and loved it,” she said.
“There are a lot of same sex relationships in my novel; the protagonist, she has friends that are a gay couple,” Robeson continued. “Because I lived in Encinitas and Poway, I set many of the scenes in Hillcrest because I always felt that it was a place that was really welcoming, with all kinds of people. In grad school in the late ’90s, it was a place where people felt open and free regardless of sexuality. It was a place I loved to hang out.”
Robeson said she was fortunate to go to Greece growing up and spent half her life overseas. Much of the novel takes place in Greece, and also in Encinitas where the character lives and it also takes place in Egypt in the 1930s and ’40s because that is where her grandmother lived. Then it goes into the 1960s in Athens, Greece.
“It was important to me as a character, and a woman writer, that when she does have a same-sex relationship, it is long, loving and not just a stereotype of curiosity. She just does not see gender. When she is looking for love, just like in Zeus’ myth, she only wants to go on her own path.” Robeson said.
— Kimberly K. Robeson is a Greek American assistant professor at Los Angeles Valley College where she teaches world literature, creative writing, and composition. She is the co-advisor for the college’s LGBTQIA+ Club. She has lived in Venezuela, Borneo, and Spain, but grew up in Greece, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the United States. She received a master’s degree in comparative literature and has taught English in Greece, Peru, and the United States for the past 27 years.