Young Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are finding common ground—by sharing their stories.
Twelve short stories written by young Cypriots will be included in a forthcoming book entitled “Reading the Lines: ‘The Other’ in the Stories We Tell About Ourselves.” The collection includes narratives in English, Greek, and Turkish, by writers as young as 16.
The authors are the winners of a creative writing competition run by Reading the Lines, a Youth Power Small Grants project funded by UNDP Action for Cooperation and Trust in Cyprus. The top three stories in each age category (15-24 and 25-35) have also been illustrated by local artists and translated into English for the online version.
“Reading the Lines: ‘The Other’ in the Stories We Tell About Ourselves” will be one of the very few multilingual books published in Cyprus to include stories by both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot young people.
The stories were written on the theme of otherness, a very important theme in post-conflict Cyprus. Researchers have reported that literature and other storytelling media have perpetuated and legitimized myths, which often misrepresent and demonize members of the other community, thus further entrenching the division of the island.
Ultimately, “Reading the Lines” aims to illustrate how literature can be used as a tool for constructive communication and healing among various ethnic and religious groups, rather than as a tool to objectify and depersonalize.
Anastasia Liopetriti, 20, Daphne Papaioannou, 16, George Solomou, 25, and Lydia Antoniou, 30, invite readers to experience the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of various ethnic others, offering new ways to conceptualize what is typically considered different, foreign, and unfamiliar.
Berke Ricketti, 21, Aristodemos Ioannou, 34, and Elena Tornariti, 24, deliver original narratives on individuality, showcasing powerful internal dialogues characters have with their own demons.
Phaedon Zachary, 35, provides a captivating narrative of a young man’s journey as he comes to accept his “otherness” and celebrate his sexual orientation, which had previously been a source of shame.
Mehmet Erdogan, 28, deals with the restrictive gender roles Cypriot society defines for its men and women, arguing against such dichotomies.
Storytelling has proven to be an effective and artful tool for young people to voice their opinions on “otherness.” The stories in “Reading the Lines” present the stories of multifaceted individuals breaking free from the confining dichotomy of “us” versus “them,” fostering awareness, understanding, and the vision of a peaceful, equal, and multicultural Cyprus.
Encouraging young Cypriots to become socially engaged creators who use their words to explore issues of social, cultural, and political significance, and who participate actively in public dialogue, has been one of the key aims of this initiative. Building on its success, it is being followed up by a second Youth Power Small Grants project entitled Reading the Lines: The Transformative Power of Words.