In addition to genetic inheritance, these chapters explore the ways traumatic experiences live on with people and get passed down generationally. We see this most clearly in Lefty’s triple insurance policy for the Zebra Room. His specific fear of fire traces directly to Smyrna, but it reaches beyond the physical fact of that fire to the fear that disaster can take away not just a building but entire institutions. Lefty’s comment that an insurance company can burn down too evokes the way the Greek authorities did nothing to protect their civilians. Although Milton wants to get rid of the insurance policies, Lefty foists them on him, symbolizing that even if Milton thinks himself separate from his father’s traumas, he nevertheless must take them on. This evokes Desdemona inheriting the burden of caring for Lefty from her parents, who apparently saw her as the responsible child, whether by age, temperament, or gender. When Desdemona feels relief at what she thinks is Lefty’s death, she reacts not to the actual loss of Lefty but the loss of a responsibility bequeathed upon her by her parents based on their own fears.

The Stephanides family, with its history of secrets, has a habit of turning away from uncomfortable sexual truths. We see this again in their failure to notice Callie’s intersex condition, which is almost comically missed at several key moments, including when Dr. Philobosian is sexually distracted by a nurse and when Callie urinates on Father Mike. Julie’s comment that extreme beauty stems from unusual features hints at part of the mechanism that covers up Callie’s androgyny. Because young Callie’s androgynous features look beautiful as a whole, the whole distracts people from noticing her individual quirks. Importantly, Julie uses the word “freakish” to describe the strangeness that creates beauty, a word associated with monstrosity. Freakishness was previously eroticized in the Minotaur vaudeville show, in which a major part of what made the show exciting was the idea of the minotaur as a sexual being. Just as Lefty, Desdemona, Sourmelina, and Zizmo refused to see more of the play or actively acknowledge its eroticism, the family unwittingly turns away from the fact of Callie’s body. Even during the baptism incident, humor and blasphemy cover up the pure fact of Callie’s physiology. Because of the family’s conservative views on sex and bodies, Cal’s intersex condition gets tied to sex and shame and therefore joins the ranks of things that cannot be looked at directly.