Life Stories #75: Rayya Elias

Subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes

Life Stories: Rayya Elias

photo: Lisa Ross

In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I interview memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, Rayya Elias tells us about Harley Loco and a life of “hard living, hair, and post-punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side.” We start with Elias’s childhood in Syria, then growing up in Detroit in the late 1960s and ’70s when her family came to the United States, and the desires that led her towards New York City. She talked about how she turned to drug use as a way push aside the internal conflicts she was dealing with over her sexuality and her efforts to break away from her past. The drugs, she says, “unlocked me a little bit, helped me move past all of those barriers that I felt contained me. That was my first experience, and it was amazing. Not only was I able to fit in, but I was also able to be comfortable in my own skin, and able to just be freer.” It didn’t stop there:

“When the harder drugs started happening… here in New York, in the art scene, in the music scene, and I was looking up to see who were the people I was mostly attracted to in my life, they were the people that were out there using drugs and still having these lives that were beyond my imagination…They were doing it, and they seemed f’ed up… and [yet] they seemed to be doing a really job at being everything. And I thought, wow, I can do that!”

She couldn’t, though, and she writes about the long downward spiral that followed, and the slow process of turning her life around. We also talk about how she’d originally set out to turn her story into a movie, when the encouragement and generosity of Elizabeth Gilbert steered her towards memoir.

Listen to Life Stories #75: Rayya Elias (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

6 July 2014 | life stories |

Read This: Sweet Tooth

As I’m writing this post, I’ve recently finished editing a Life Stories podcast featuring Rayya Elias, which we recorded shortly after her memoir Harley Loco came out in paperback. And that reminded me that I’d had this recurring thought about how I could tell you about some earlier episodes of the podcast, and how those books were out in paperback, too, and if you hadn’t read them when they first came out, here was a good opportunity.

Well, if you look at the iTunes episode list, you’ll see the podcast has been running for just about two and a half years now, so a lot of those books are in paperback now, and it didn’t seem fair to single out some at the expense of others. So I thought, okay, have any of my early guests come up with a new memoir?

Sweet Tooth (Tim Anderson)One of my first conversations was with Tim Anderson, who’d written Tune In Tokyo about his time as a teacher of conversational English in Japan. His second memoir, Sweet Tooth, backtracks in time to his North Carolina adolescence, when he was simultaneously realizing that he was gay and developing the first symptoms of diabetes. As in his first book, Tim tells his story with an airy, self-deprecating humor that’s likely to draw you in pretty quickly—and you don’t need to have read Tune In Tokyo to follow along, so you can jump right in.

6 July 2014 | read this |

« Previous PageNext Page »