Why I wrote What Lies Beneath The Cedars
I am not Lucy, and my mum is not Amelia. Though I do need to thank my mum for inspiring several key moments in the book (in particular the fear of being arrested for owning a satellite dish!)
Lucy and her family were created and shaped by a community of people; from actions, thoughts and words that I have personally said, or heard, or witnessed; stories and jokes shared with friends, and with a good deal of imagination in between. I am well aware that Lucy and her family's dynamic, beliefs and behaviours are not necessarily typical of all Lebanese migrants in Australia, just as Rhys is not typical of every Aussie guy out there. This is a romantic fiction through and through.
However some of the issues that Lucy struggles with, I along with every second person I am certain, struggles with at times in their lives - low self-efficacy, self-doubt, fear and anxiety. Lucy's anguished cry in the novel, "I just don't know who the hell I am anymore," echoed my thoughts from a stage in my life.
In addition to these unfortunate but common self-esteem issues, many children of first generation migrants experienced a surge of cultural identity issues that drove the false sense of self and heightened their anxieties.
Growing up, my parents did not have the time nor the ability to assist with canteen duty, attend parent-teacher interviews, encourage our dreams or be as emotionally present in our lives as my husband, and I are in our children's lives. They were just trying their best to survive in a new country with the limited skills and resources they had had. At the time I did not have the maturity to fully appreciate this and it lead to a lack of confidence that began in school years. This was during a time pre-Masterchef era before it became trendy to embrace international foods; when having a Lebanese bread lunch filled with sesame, oregano and olive oil could not have screamed "wog" any louder. This, coupled with the difference in our physical appearance to Anglo-Saxon Aussies, was a driving force of the disparity felt.
Travelling to Lebanon for the first time when I was nineteen, I was finally given a deep sense of connection to my roots, a sense of home and belonging. So you can imagine my surprise when my relatives referred to me as the 'Aussie'. They would chuckle at my Arabic, that I was always so proud of knowing (who knew that Rain with a rolled R sound did not quite mean 'rain' in Arabic). I belonged not here nor there.
As I matured, my circle of friends widened and when sharing intimate conversations about relationships, motherhood and family, I discovered that my friends of Lebanese background held the same view. Though we appreciated with no doubt whatsoever, all the sacrifices and hard work of our parents, it did not alleviate the feeling of 'different' and lack of sense of belonging. Rather we were left with a feeling of guilt. We felt this perhaps more so than our parents, and it had shaped how we saw ourselves and presented ourselves. And to deny that this had not affected our self-esteem, and therefore the choices that we made in adulthood was to kid ourselves. I wanted to give that a voice.
I struggled for many years with a fractured sense of self. Anxiety was a big part of my life until I was able to find my way with the right help and a journey of self-discovery (forgive the overused phrase but there is no other way to describe it). I came to meet and talk to countless others of varied backgrounds who were suffering the same way; and I was amazed to know that the very thing that made me feel different, in fact, made me quite the same. Lucy and Rhys, in fact, suffered in quite the same way. My greatest growth came from the realisation that we are all individual humans in the end, regardless of race or background; we are all trying our very best to live in this world with the tools we have been taught and given. And to understand that we now have a choice is the most powerful tool we can hold.
I would not have dreamed of taking the chance in writing a book a few years ago. I hope that taking this giant leap for me, will inspire others to take a chance, take a leap and follow their dreams. You never know, you may just fly.