A Profile of John Petrakis
John Petrakis has made ethnic groups the focus of his fiction throughout his literary career. His stories expose the damaging ideologies and immigrant practices that cause lives to unravel.
He believes this practice re-centers Greek America’s cultural responsibility to comprehend its history and promote solidarity with the downtrodden. It offers an affirmative vision for creating a vibrant public sphere that engages in rigorous discussion about ethnic history and culture.
Early Life and Education
John Petrakis was born in St. Louis but moved to Chicago as a young boy to live with his father Mark, an Orthodox Greek priest ordained at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church on 61st Street on Chicago’s South Side neighborhood.
Petrakis was an integral part of his hometown Greek community throughout his career, visiting its many kafenios (taverns) and restaurants to converse with their regulars about life and work at a time when the American Dream still seemed distant.
He was the author of 11 novels, six short story collections and five memoirs. For his work he received numerous awards and honors such as the Benjamin Franklin Citation and Illinois Arts Council Literary Award; additionally he was a National Book Award finalist and taught at several universities.
John Petrakis is an attorney who specializes in banking and commercial law. His practice encompasses representing banks and other financial institutions when taking asset recovery actions against defaulting borrowers and guarantors, creditors’ rights litigation outside of bankruptcy proceedings, foreclosures, debt restructure agreements and other commercial disputes.
He also represents businesses in employment and contract disputes. His experience includes representing manufacturing, retail and professional groups on matters ranging from contract negotiations to disagreements regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and other employment laws.
He has taught screenwriting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and written film essays for Christian Century Magazine, often focused on stories about those struggling to make ends meet. His latest screenplay, Safety Not Guaranteed, stars Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass.
Achievements and Honors
John Petrakis is a renowned author who has created novels and stories set in Chicago, often featuring the Greek-American community. His works have received numerous honors such as the National Book Award and Carl Sandburg Prize.
He has received six honorary doctorates and served as writer-in-residence at the Chicago Public Library, in addition to teaching at various universities.
His most acclaimed work is A Dream of Kings, which won the National Book Award and became a hit film. In it, Petrakis created an extraordinary tale about a Greek-American man whose life and dreams are guided by his palm reading and consulting abilities.
Petrakis was the son of Greek immigrants from Chicago who immigrated as children. As an adult, he has written numerous works including novels and short stories.
His most acclaimed works are A Dream of Kings and The Hour of the Bell, both of which were adapted into movies. Additionally, he wrote numerous essays and memoirs.
His life was filled with personal and professional struggles. He battled a gambling addiction, even attempted suicide once. In 2014, he opened up about this addiction in his autobiography Song of My Life, detailing its effects on him and those closest to him – from family tragedies to professional success.
Petrakis’ wife, Elizabeth Cioffi-Petrakis, estimates his worth as being worth a lot of money. Together they run six successful food ventures which have been semifinalists six times for regional James Beard Awards. Furthermore, they have an active philanthropic foundation, supporting causes close to home such as supporting PurpleStride walk for pancreatic cancer awareness; sponsoring a local McDonald’s franchise which their sons attend; and serving on the board of directors of Ronald McDonald House Central Florida. With three generations at home, these people share one passion: their love of cooking! And most importantly: deep love for children!
Petrakis was wealthy enough to purchase several properties, yet was forced into signing a prenuptial agreement that nearly bankrupted him. Now he claims his net worth is zero even though he owns numerous properties.