Poet, writer and performer Koraly Dimitriadis has been awarded a second grant from Creative Victoria for her first non-fiction book, Not Till You’re Married. The project will examine how the cultural pressures of strict parenting in a migrant and/or religious family manifests in the modern adult.
Australian-born Cypriot Dimitriadis will lay down her own personal experience as a daughter of immigrants, “growing up in a working-class, religious and restrictive household”, an experience not foreign to a notable portion of second and third generation Australians, while also incorporating the stories of others.
“I have always had the idea, expanding from my own personal experience into the experiences of others,” Dimitriadis tells Neos Kosmos.
“In the past I was a bit afraid to go there but as I too have grown through my own journey, I feel ready to delve into such a sensitive topic for many of us.”
What is unique about this book is that it will embark on its own research, under the guidance of researchers, Dr Alexandra Dellios and Misbah Wolf.
Dimitriadis used her own personal experiences and the experiences of others to shape a 120 question anonymous survey. The results will be published in the book. Participants can opt for a one-on-one interview with Koraly after this point, for their story to be possibly included in the book. So far, she has collected 130 responses, but would like to reach 500.
“I’m seeing a very high prevalence of domestic violence in the upbringing of participants. And other things that I don’t want to comment on right now that have really shocked and unsettled me.”
Dimitriadis explains that this project is the hardest book she will ever write.
“It’s a big project. This is a project very close to my heart that also needs a lot of care and attention to detail. With my fiction manuscript and poetry I have been working based on my own creative flow but this is a completely different piece of work and a huge responsibility. Nobody has researched the children of migrants in this way. I want to see how our upbringing has manifested in our adult lives.”
NOT JUST ABOUT WOMEN
Dimitriadis says she wanted to include all genders because “we need to look at the whole picture” and men have been traumatised too.
Narcissistic patterns appear as a result of belief systems that expect men to nullify their emotions. There is still stigma in male vulnerability and even in the mainstream population men expressing their raw emotions is rare. Men are seen as Alphas, go-getters, players, strong as an extension of rough.
“I saw it growing up, men encouraged to sleep with women while women had to be pure. The boys had to be macho and not cry. And this toxic masculinity results in violence and abuse against women. And I still see it in the next generation. These things need to be talked about, because we are not going to stop violence against women if we don’t understand the men,” she tells Neos Kosmos.
Drawing on her own experiences with men she has loved and been hurt by, men who were hurt themselves, Koraly provides personal insights including how she discovered she had complex-PTSD, and how hypnotherapy (not currently funded in Australia) helped her.
For Koraly, shedding light on the topic is vital even if it means a “brutal book”. There are many similarities in the ramifications of having an upbringing where religion or culture has had an influence on upbringing, cross culturally, with the spectrum widening significantly when it comes to subjects that grew up in non-english-speaking families and Abrahamic religious backgrounds. Even though there has been a lot of progress and integration in terms of limiting beliefs related to culturally diverse communities as they evolve as part of the wider Australian fabric, Dimitriadis argues that there has not been enough of a shift.
“I’m looking at these adults and I’m saying, OK, what’s your life? Do you have any challenges? What’s your relationship like with your family? Your children? What’s your relationship like with your body? Do you struggle with relationships? Were you scared of God growing up and guilt tripped into silencing your true expression, muted your personality?”
LETTING GO OF REDUNDANT PATTERNS
Dimitriades believes that the paradigm of sacrifice and its constant mention by migrant parents has instilled the notion that as adults, children need to sacrifice themselves for their elderly parents and for their children in order to be righteous, good and to avoid some sort of divine punishment. This creates unfulfilled humans who perpetuate the generational trauma.
“I don’t really think that we’ve learned from the mistakes of our parents,” she insists, adding that things are even more complex when as children of migrants we feel torn between two identities, two countries.
“Relating to one culture without letting go of the other when there is so much projected judgement can be hard. We often lack solid grounding.”
Essentially, with Not Till You’re Married, Koraly doesn’t aim to simply pronounce the gap, her goal is to help bridge it.
“I don’t want this book to be a book about blame. I want it to be a book about healing and acknowledging. I want its effect to be like ‘I see these things, I acknowledge these things and I wanna heal from these things’. And the only way that we can heal and move forward is to have an honest conversation about them.”
To qualify for the survey you need to answer YES to all the questions below:
– Are you an Australian citizen who has at least one parent who was born overseas and English is not their first language?
– Have the majority of your formative years, from childhood to adulthood, been living in Australia?
– Were you brought up in a Christian/Muslim/Jewish religious family (doesn’t have to be at church every week) OR did your family follow the norms of a culture influenced by such religions? Eg if your family were not religious but you are of a Greek background, you qualify, because Greek culture is very much influenced by the Orthodox religion.
– Do you feel you came from a working-class background? This can stretch back to your grandparents. Did they work in factories? In unskilled or semi-skilled manual or industrial work?
If you answered YES to ALL of these questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org for the survey
More information on Koraly can be found at www.koralydimitriadis.com