You Animal Machine
Category: .

You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek)

An essay by Eleni Sikelianos

A memoir of Melena, five-times married, mother, burlesque dancer, and “the hardest-assed woman to ever eat wood and bite nails.”

June 2014
5.5 x 8.25 | 126 pages
Trade Paper


ISBN: 978-1-56689-360-2.



This is the tale of Melena, five times married, mother of three, burlesque dancer, and “the toughest, hardest-assed woman to ever eat wood and bite nails.” Located in history and memory, the real and the imagined, her life cracks open questions of identity at the heart of an American, immigrant, woman’s experience. You Animal Machine offers a glimpse of both the violence and the beauty of the margins, where “outskirts make their own centers.”


“Melena strikes a playful and sharp figure in her leopard print costume. Sikelianos never lets go of the fantasy of the image, but she also explores her grandmother’s underlying grit. Fans of her previous work will be sure to enjoy Sikelianos’s atypical memoir.” Publishers Weekly

“A wonderfully strange and inventive book by a professor and poet who combines various forms into an unclassifiable whole. . . The writing pulsates with such life force, reckless and a little giddy, as the author surveys her family’s female history, the immigration of Greeks to America. . . This is writing and reading as adventure, where every page can bring a different sort of revelation.”Kirkus, starred review

“As feminism reaches the height of the hashtag, Sikelianos instead drums forward a woman’s experience with other words . . . Here lies Sikelianos’ prowess: she gives readers the power to imagine and inquire and be ridiculous as we do so.”Huffington Post

“With her latest book, Eleni Sikelianos sashays with the essay, teasing us with the literary device’s exotic form.”Los Angeles Review

“This experimental memoir — part scrapbook, essay and poem — tells the story of Melena, a burlesque dancer and mother whose experiences as an American immigrant woman encompass issues of identity and belonging.” Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row, The Year Ahead in Books

“It is about the multiplicity of stories, and the story as mirage, as temporary placeholder.”Boston Review

“Sikelianos’ portrait includes poems, unusual typography, & photographs that would not look out of place in a W. G. Sebald novel.” Booklist

“[T]his hybrid work … is simply sui generis, refreshingly unclassifiable… By the time I made it out to that rock shop in the desert, I began to feel like a detective in my own unexamined life.” Coldfront Magazine

“Through artifacts-lists of songs, newspaper clippings, photographs, film posters, staged interviews, poems-the poet Sikelianos assembles a textual chimera that keeps sliding through her fingers.” The Believer 

“Eleni Sikelianos’ memoir You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek) is inventively told through poems, essays, and photos.”Largehearted Boy

“In her searching for answers that will not yield, and her courage of locating her own responses — creating her own story to fill in for the material she lacks — Sikelianos delivers more than a traditional narrative ever would. . . Readers are granted entrance into an unconventional method of storytelling Sikelianos has made all her own.”Bookslut

“Eleni Sikelianos throws the dressing robes off the essay, exposing the literary device’s exotic form, just as she exposes the bare mettle of her maternal grandmother Melena.”—Museum of Americana 

“[You Animal Machine] is tough as nails: you can feel Sikelianos at work, forcibly stitching it with catgut string, only to watch it fly apart again.” —The Believer

“[A] moving story told in an inventive form.” Shelf Unbound

You Animal Machine (The Golden Greek) offers a glimpse of both the violence and the beauty of the margins, where ‘outskirts make their own centers.’ and ‘Poetry, translation, narration, novelization, and memory all grapple for your attention in this brilliant debut novel.” –Buzzfeed, Fifteen Books for Amanda Palmer and Her Fans

“A book of outcasts, Sikelianos’ poetic memoir is a remarkable exploration of personal history, the fluid nature of identity, and the impossibility of knowing everything about anyone, especially someone as complicated, changing and deliberately slippery as Sikelianos’ grandmother, Melena.” —Rob Mclennan

Past Praise for Eleni Sikelianos

“A wonderful memoir, held together by string, rumor . . . evoked toughly and with great love and above all art and craft. Both subject and author are unforgettable.” —Michael Ondaatje

“Sikelianos captures the subtlest shades of the emotional palatte’” —The Washington Post

“Sikelianos’s gift for blending the devotional and secular, the physical and cognitive, makes her one of the most exciting and original writers today.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Eleni Sikelianos evokes road trips, pipe dreams, chemically induced disorder, thwarted tenderness and vanishing acts with charged particles of light.” —Rikki Ducornet

“[A]n eloquent scrapbook in which she has placed memories and thoughts, startling impressions, dreams, poems . . . photographs, and journal entries.” —Donna Seaman, Speakeasy Magazine