Gage, Eleni N. 1974–
Gage, Eleni N. 1974–
PERSONAL: Born October 8, 1974, in New York, NY; daughter of Nicholas Gage (a writer). Education: Harvard College, B.A., 1996.
CAREER: Worked for magazines Allure and Elle, New York, NY; InStyle, New York, NY, contributing editor; freelance writer, 2001–; People magazine, beauty editor, 2004–.
North of Ithaka: A Journey Home through a Family's Extraordinary Past (memoir), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Also contributor to Travel & Leisure, Real Simple, American Scholar, New York Times, and other journals.
Author's work has been translated into Dutch and Greek.
SIDELIGHTS: Eleni N. Gage is the author of North of Ithaka: A Journey Home through a Family's Extraordinary Past. The book is connected to Eleni, a book written by Gage's father, Nicholas Gage, that tells the story of Gage's grandmother and namesake. Gage's grandmother was able to send her children out of wartorn Greece during the late 1940s, but was herself betrayed by neighbors and killed by the Communist insurgents who occupied her village. Nicholas Gage reconstructed his mother's life and death in Eleni, and Gage, who eventually rebuilt her Grandmother Eleni's house, chronicles her own effort to reclaim her family history in North of Ithaka.
When Gage announced her intention of returning to the village of Lia, the scene of her family's tragedy, her aunts were deeply disturbed and fearful. They even told her she would be eaten by wolves or killed by Albanians. Gage was determined to rebuild the ancestral home, "both a metaphor for and a means by which the family's emotional wounds begin to heal," in the words of Library Journal contributor Sheila Kasperek. At the same time, she reconnected with her family's homeland, discovering a Greece rarely seen by tourists. As Gage put it on her Web site, "I spent 10 months going to gypsy weddings, presiding over rooster sacrifices, learning how to cook Dishrag Pie, and combating road rage." In addition to participating in the many religious festivals of the devoutly Orthodox villagers, she also learned about the older Greece that still believes in signs and omens and family curses. Her rebuilding project also brought her into intimate contact with the frustrations of Greek bureaucracy, but she was able to complete the project with the help of neighbors, including some of those Albanians so feared by her aunts. From those neighbors she also heard tales of her grandmother and the terrible events of the past, as well as pointed questions about why she was still unmarried at the ripe old age of twenty-seven.
About Gage's combination of family saga and innocent abroad memoir, a Kirkus Reviews writer observed that "her narrative is a curiously lackadaisical mixture of American earnestness and superficiality." A Publishers Weekly reviewer found Gage's account "occasionally maudlin, but the scope of her rebuilding effort is Herculean enough to keep readers turning pages to see the finished product for themselves." In a more favorable assessment, Wall Street Journal contributor Pia Catton said that "Gage writes of her adventures in pleasantly honest, often amusing, prose. As an earnest 27-year-old, she treats tradition with respect and history with steady realism." Writing in the London Observer, Carl Wilkinson added: "Refreshingly, Gage doesn't opt for the obvious city-girl meets village folk humour for long, but mucks in with village life and instead … unearths a more interesting saga of immigration, belonging and community."
Gage told CA: "As a child, I had no interest in becoming an author; it was what my parents did and therefore inherently unpalatable. I thought it would be more fun to run a bookstore or lingerie shop or to name lipsticks or nail polishes. But in college, I began writing ethnographies for my folklore and mythology classes, and articles for the weekly lifestyle magazine of the Harvard Crimson. I enjoyed these experiences so much that I decided to pursue a career in journalism, and moved to New York four days after graduation to begin my first job as an editorial assistant at Allure magazine. My writing process involves taking copious notes, writing something heinous and unwieldy, and then whittling it down to more easily digested morsel."
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that even if you are writing about your own life, sometimes people will read their own experiences in the story. I find that very gratifying when it happens."
"I hope readers will find my books informative, enjoyable, and thought-provoking. But I'll be happy just to have them find the books at all."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Gage, Eleni N., North of Ithaka: A Journey Home through a Family's Extraordinary Past, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of North of Ithaka, p. 273.
Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Sheila Kasperek, review of North of Ithaka, p. 103.
Observer (London, England), July 4, 2004, Carl Wilkinson, review of North of Ithaka.
Parade, August 4, 2004, review of North of Ithaka.
Publishers Weekly, April 4, 2005, review of North of Ithaka, p. 53.
Sunday Times (London, England), July 24, 2005, review of North of Ithaka.
Travel & Leisure, May, 2005, Amy Farley, "T&L Reports: Greek Revival."
Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2005, Pia Catton, review of North of Ithaka, p. W10.
Washington Times, August 7, 2004, review of North of Ithaka.
Eleni Gage Home Pagehttp://elenigage.com (July 7, 2005).