Plymouth Author Writes Memoir ‘Don’t Marry An American’
If you sit down for a visit with Ben Kyriagis at his Plymouth home, you’ll learn he’s a strong believer in stories.
“I believe stories are very important to us individually and very important to society. Stories make us who we are,” said Kyriagis.
His belief in the power of stories is so strong that Kyriagis wrote a memoir called “Don’t Marry an American.”
“My mother gave me only one piece of advice,” said Kyriagis. “It was whatever you do, don’t marry an American.”
But beneath the catchy title of the book, Kyriagis recorded family stories of perseverance and grit. His family survived Nazi occupation in a poor village on Mount Olympus as well as civil war. Many in his family have emigration stories.
“They wanted to survive and thrive and I wanted those stories to survive for the family,” said Kyriagis. “I was concerned the stories would be lost.”
Kyriagis himself was an exchange student in high school and studied in Barron, Wisconsin. He also attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
That’s where he met the young woman that would cause him to think twice about his mother’s advice.
“I saw her in a class that we had,” remembers Kyriagis. “She gave me a big smile and that was it.”
Shelley Kyriagis remembers her future husband as “the smartest man on campus at Eau Claire.”
“He was funny and charming and wonderful. It was pretty clear. He stood out among the rest,” said Shelley.
Kyriagis says his family fell in love with Shelley too. His mother told him more than once that he chose wisely.
“When I met Shelley, I had to decide if I was going to listen to my mother or do the right thing, and the right thing was to marry Shelley,” said Kyriagis. “My mother told me a few times a day, I’m so glad you married Shelley. She was convinced I’d never find a Greek wife as good as Shelley and that was just music to my ears.”
The lesson of being open to embracing the unexpected is one of the major lessons of the book.
“If we already have our minds made up, it prevents us sometimes from doing what may be better for us,” said Kyriagis.