Author-in-Residence: Rayya Elias – author of ‘Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side’

'Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side' by Rayya Elias

‘I’ve realized that the edge of living without substance is razor sharp and cuts deeper than everything else. The experience is more radical than any high I’ve ever known. Yes, life can sometimes be dull and mundane, but most of the time, it’s more interesting and exciting than anything I experienced  when I simply plunged into it without thinking.’

Rayya Elias’s book is an autobiographical account of a life draped in drug abuse, hard partying and sexual exploration. The tale begins in Elias’s childhood home of Syria, and we travel to Detroit and then New York City, with Rayya as she learns who she is, who she isn’t and who she is going to become.

After completing this story, I found myself inspired by Rayya’s honesty, openness, and, although I myself have never suffered from addiction, I was inspired by her strength and determination to beat her addiction amidst relapse after relapse. Luckily, I was able to ask her a few questions spurred from the pure truth Rayya shares.


CAROLANN: I have never read such an honest and open biographical account. This is a no-holds barred, honest and totally open story. Nor do you hide or seem shamed by your past. Have you always had this type of open personality or has beating addiction allowed for you to become so very open?

RAYYA: I’m just learning not to use shame as a tool to beat myself up for the things from my past. Part of becoming comfortable in my own skin has been to be brutally honest with myself, that’s the only time real change happens. I was blunt and open before I got clean but honesty takes work. The first step was accepting my addiction and working to stay one step ahead of it, and only then could I start working becoming authentic.

CAROLANN: If your parents were still alive would you still be able to be so honest?

RAYYA: I’m not sure if I could have been this brutally direct if my parents were still alive. I have such a deep love and respect for my mom and dad, and even though they knew most of what was going on with me, it would’ve been very hard for them to see it on the page.

CAROLANN: Have you received negative or positive responses from friends and family for your honesty?

RAYYA: Yes, I absolutely have received negative feedback from both, which is why I wouldn’t let anyone read the manuscript until it was in the final stages of production. There is always going to be someone who gets upset about a memoir, but this is my journey and my experience–I take full responsibility.

I recommend this book to anyone who is feeling a little bit beaten by the world. And if you still aren’t sure you want to read this book, meet Rayya and she will change your mind – she did mine.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 2 {out of 5} stars | ★★☆☆☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆

{This novel was gifted to Her Literary Salon by Penguin/Viking Books.}