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Greek of the Week Features Peter Moskos

New Greek TV's featured Greek of the Week is Harvard educated former cop and acclaimed author, Peter Moskos.

The Greek-American intellect was born in Chicago and is the son of renowned writer Charles Moskos, who wrote the first and second editions of Greek Americans: Struggle and Success. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor, who resides in Astoria, NY, attended Princeton University for his B.A. in Sociology and received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard University.

Moskos explains, "...somewhat unusual for an Ivy League student, I became a Baltimore cop during my Ph.D. research. In 1999 to 2001, I was a police officer, which has been my foundation for my academic career". His dissertation examined why the War on Drugs didn't work and assessed police culture, why cops arrest the people they do, and how the law enforcement interacts with the community.

During his undergraduate studies, Moskos lived in Mets, Athens and studied the language. He recounts, "I took Modern Greek at Princeton and took a year off and the Hellenic Studies program there paid for a portion of my trip to Greece. I took Greek at The Athens Center. I came into my own while living in Athens, I loved living there. My cliche is 'Athens is a wonderful place to live but I wouldn't want to visit'. Because of Greek classes in college I found my Greek-ness and I also lived in Baltimore's Greektown".

The humble intellect's first book Cop in the Hood, chronicled his twenty months on the Baltimore streets and gained stellar book reviews. As Moskos describes of his field research, "My original plan to become a cop was a year, but I stayed a bit longer, I learned pretty quick about policing. The police department was really good to me as a Harvard boy. They took me for who I was and made me appreciate my education even more. I am still in many ways closer to the cops I worked with than the people I went to grad school with".

Moskos' second book In Defense of Flogging, attacked the U.S. prison system and shined light on how bad our prison system is. As he states, "We have more than 2 million prisoners in the system that our society thinks is normal and it's not normal by any international or American standard. I wanted to shake up the debate a little bit. It attacks prisons from a moral sense".

The 43-year-old's third book is the 3rd edition of Greek Americans: Struggle and Success, that his famous father originally penned. Moskos reveals, "We were slowly not working on it for years before he died in 2008. The publisher still wanted the book, so I revised the second edition. It was a fun project that took about a year to update the original research from the late 70's. I kept it alive for another generation".

When asked about how his father affected his career choices, world views and lifetime goals, Moskos comments, "I take after my father in so many ways, that it can't be coincidence. He studied military sociology and I studied police sociology which is about as close as you can get.  This apple did not fall far from the tree. All that said, I never felt any pressure, he was always very proud of my work and he encouraged me. But it's odd how similar I am to him".

The Greek-American's paternal side originates from Northern Epirus, while his mother is of German descent. He states, "My mother is German and speaks Greek better than my father and me". Moskos was named Peter, but baptized Fotis, after his papou. Speaking about his Greek identity, he reveals, "I'm half German too, but I don't consider that side, it doesn't even count".

Discussing his ethnicity, Moskos admits, "A certain amount of it is ingrained. I don't go to church, my friends aren't Greek and I wasn't raised in that certain Greek-American world, yet I lived in Greece, I learned Greek, I wrote a book on Greek-Americans. I can't imagine living somewhere I can't buy feta and I hand roll phyllo for spanikopita, which has been passed down in my family". He adds, "There is no downside to being Greek. Saying Greek-American is a choice; most people of Greek descent do choose to identify with it".

Concerning his place of residence, Moskos claims, "Astoria is the only place in the world, where speaking bad Greek doesn't help you, you're just another American who doesn't speak Greek. Everywhere else in the world, in Greece and America, you speak bad Greek and Greeks love you. So that's the only down side to living in Astoria. My bad Greek has gotten me free drinks in Greek restaurants around the world. You run into a Greek and you assume you are friends until proven otherwise".

In his down time, the intellectual enjoys biking, reading and cooking. Moskos comments, "I am on sabbatical this academic year, so I'm doing an oral history on the crime drop in New York in the 1990's. It's one thing to talk about these issues and another to ask police what actually happened. I want to answer that question". The established academic travels to Mytilini every other year with his wife, and got married on the island. His very favorite place in Greece is, "an outdoor movie theatre in Skala Eressos on Mytilini".

When asked what he is most proud of, the brilliant author claims this interview! "I was thinking 'Greek of the Week' ranks pretty high on the list. As honors go, that's a pretty great one. I'm going to get some mileage out of this. I can't wait to tell my koumbaros and my nouna. What else does a Greek want? Now I can say 'Don't forget I was Greek of the Week'...Before 'Greek of the Week', Atlantic Magazine called me one of its 'Brave Thinkers' of 2011".

Last modified onFriday, 12 September 2014 21:05