Thursday, September 7, 2017

She's Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Eileen Colucci will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Eileen, thank you for stopping by and chatting with our readers. What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be an actress. As a teen, I was very shy and I loved that I took on a whole other persona when I was on stage. My shyness fell away and I lost myself in whatever role I was playing. The summer after 6th grade, I played Gwendolyn in a production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. In middle and high school I was in various plays including the lead (Melinda) in TEACH ME HOW TO CRY, and children’s theater where I played a leprechaun. In college I was a ladybug in ALICE IN WONDERLAND; I was asked to read twice for the White Queen, but all the juicy parts went to the theatre majors. Anyway, by then I knew I was not going to pursue acting as a career. It was just a fun hobby. But I think actors are storytellers at heart and I have ended up being a storyteller.

What would you write in a letter to your teen self?

Dear Eileen,

First of all, don’t be so shy! Go ahead and invite that boy you have a crush on to the Sadie Hawkins dance. You should have more confidence in yourself. In a few years, quite a few of your classmates are going to vote for you as “Most Likely to Succeed,” and you should not be so surprised. (That title will ultimately be “stolen” from you by the girl with the highest GPA who will insist on a revote and actually run a campaign to win.) But really, you need to lighten up. Don’t be so serious all the time.

Understandably, you are devastated when your dad dies when you are sixteen. But, as hard as it is to imagine now, you will heal. You will grow into a strong, brave, outgoing young woman. As the song says, you will survive. So, take it easy on yourself and enjoy your teen years rather than wishing you could fast forward through them to your twenties. And know that it does get better from here.

Yours truly

What superpower would you love to have? Why?

I would like to be able to transform into other creatures, especially a dog so that I could play with my Labrador retriever, Phoebo. I do play with him but I think it would be more fun to relate to him as a dog. Plus, Phoebo doesn’t have any canine friends because he lives in our big garden and we don’t take him out for walks for fear of him getting into a fight with the packs of strays in our neighborhood. We did try to get him to be friendly with my brother-in-law’s dog when he was little, but Phoebo was not interested. Living in Morocco, our options are a bit limited. There are no doggy parks though we have taken him to the beach, again when he was little, and he loved that. So I would like to be able to roll around on the grass and just be one of the dogs. My husband actually does this, without any superpowers, and sometimes I think Phoebo is convinced that he is just another dog. It would be cool to have a real tail though.

Ideal summer vacation.

My husband’s and my ideal summer vacation is spending it anywhere with our two sons and their families. The hardest part about living in Morocco is being so far from them. Since they live close to each other in Virginia that is where we go. We usually stay for about six weeks and try to rent a house by the beach for a week during that time. Some places we have been are the Outerbanks (saw the dolphins), Chincoteague (saw the wild ponies – and mosquitoes!), and most recently Sandbridge, Virginia Beach (saw the turtle nesting grounds). Nothing beats building sand castles and going for walks on the beach with our grandchildren.

Playlist for your current book.

She’s a Rainbow – The Rolling Stones
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Going Under – Saliva
Unbreakable - Faydee
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Broken - Lifehouse
Feeling the Moment - Feeder
Find What You are Looking For – Amy Grant
Let the River Run – Carly Simon
Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
Something Fine – Jackson Browne
Feeling Good – Nina Simone
Morocco – Xena Aouita
You are so Beautiful – Joe Cocker

Who was your teenaged crush? Why?

When I was a teenager I was in love with Davy Jones of the Monkees. Davy was so cute and funny and he was short just like me. He seemed very intelligent and was oh so romantic. Most of my friends were also in love with Davy though one or two preferred Mickey. I watched the TV show faithfully every week (it was my favorite show) and compared notes with my girlfriends afterwards. The highlight of my Monkee-mania was going to a concert in Forest Hills, New York, to see Davy and his group in person. That was awesome. Years later by chance I came upon Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz performing by the World Trade Center in New York City. Though we had both aged, I felt a slight thrill at seeing my teenaged crush again. Sadly Davy Jones passed away in 2012. You can read an article I wrote in memoriam, “For Davy – Thanks for the Memories,” on my website.

Favorite class in high school. Why?

I loved all my English classes in high school without exception. I couldn’t wait to drop math in tenth grade so I could sign up for all the English electives. I couldn’t really pick a favorite. But one class stands out and that was my twelfth grade History class. It was an Honors class so all the students really wanted to be there. What made it so special was the teacher, who had a doctorate, and the textbook he chose for us. It was called, “Viewpoints.” The book consisted solely of original documents. So when we studied a particular subject we would read primary sources from that era usually presenting two different sides of the story. Then we were encouraged to debate with each other and reach our own conclusions on the events. It was revolutionary for most of us who were used to being exposed to the textbook author’s point of view alone and being expected to memorize globs of information. Instead we were being taught to think for ourselves.

Thanks so much for hosting me!

I love interacting with readers and invite everyone to contact me through my website or through my Goodreads blog. I hope you enjoy SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Author's Note: It is my hope that SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW will promote peace and understanding among people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. My aim is to stimulate discussion on everything we have in common as human beings regardless of our particular heritage. We are all connected.

“The summer I turned ten, my life took a fairy tale turn.”

So begins Reema Ben Ghazi’s tale set in Morocco. Reema awakes one morning to find her skin has changed from whipped cream to dark chocolate. From then on, every few years she undergoes another metamorphosis, her color changing successively to red, yellow and ultimately brown. What is the cause of this strange condition and is there a cure? Does the legend of the White Buffalo have anything to do with it? As Reema struggles to find answers to these questions, she confronts the reactions of the people around her, including her strict and unsympathetic mother, Lalla Jamila; her timid younger sister, Zakia; and her two best friends, Batoul and Khalil. At the same time, she must deal with the trials of adolescence even as her friendship with Khalil turns to first love. One day, in her search for answers, Reema discovers a shocking secret – she may have been adopted at birth. As a result, Reema embarks on a quest to find her birth mother that takes her from twentieth-century Rabat to post-9/11 New York.

Reema’s humanity shines through her story, reminding us of all we have in common regardless of our particular cultural heritage. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which will appeal to teens as well as adults, raises intriguing questions about identity and ethnicity.

Read an Excerpt:

We were not very strict Muslims. We did not pray five times a day, nor did we go to Mosque every Friday (though we did attend on all the Aids or Holy Days, to celebrate the Sacrifice of Abraham, the end of Ramadan, and such). Zakia and I emulated Mother and did not cover our heads. As she got older, Mother took to praying and began to wear a head scarf whenever she went out, removing it at home, leaving it on in her shop. She did not insist that we begin wearing one however. Since Zakia and I went to the French Mission schools, we did not receive religious instruction as part of the regular curriculum like our cousins who went to Moroccan schools did. To fill this gap, Mother hired a tutor who came once a week to teach us the Koran and to supplement the mediocre Arabic lessons provided at school.

Mother had several copies of the Koran. There was one, wrapped in gift paper that she kept in her room. I had come upon the sealed package one day when I was about seven and, not knowing what was inside, I had torn the golden wrapping to have a peek. Afterward, when I’d asked Mother why she kept an old Koran that was falling apart, she had scolded me severely and boxed my ears. She told me that Father had brought the holy book back from the Haj and had carefully wrapped it in order to preserve it.

Needless to say, we did not use this book for our lessons. Instead, Haj Brahim (he was addressed as “Haj” because he, like Father, had made the pilgrimage to Mecca) would take down the large, heavy Koran from the top shelf in the book case and try to help us understand the verses. When this failed, he would settle for having us memorize them.

Not content to just recite the words without understanding their meaning, I had convinced Mother to buy a version that had the Arabic on the left side with the French translation on the right. This was the book that I used for my private prayers and to search for an explanation for my multiple transformations.

I was not having much success however and decided I must talk to Haj Brahim about it. I didn’t want to ask him in front of Zakia, so I would have to choose my moment carefully.

One afternoon, Haj Brahim showed up a little early for our lesson. Mother showed him into the sitting room and asked Naima to make some tea. Zakia was having a shower because she had participated in a race at school that day (that she’d lost, of course). Seizing the opportunity, I slipped into the room and gently closed the door.

Haj Brahim was a portly man, in his sixties and decidedly bald. He was an old acquaintance of Father’s who had helped Mother settle the inheritance after Father died. Mother was in a predicament as a widow with only daughters. In the absence of a male heir, Father’s three brothers had tried to wrest as much as they could, but Haj, who was an expert in Islamic law and connected to one of the Mosques in Rabat, had made sure that Mother’s rights, however limited, were protected. (Those rights would have been even more limited had Father not already taken several precautions while still alive, such as putting many of the deeds and wealth in Mother’s name.)

I cleared my throat and Haj, who sat leaning back on the sofa with his hands folded in his lap, looked over at me and smiled. As always, he wore a little white skull cap that he only removed now. I began hesitatingly to describe my problem. Haj must have been aware of my transformations as he’d been giving us lessons since I was nine and still “Reema, The Palest One of All.” He had never mentioned anything about my “condition” though. He listened carefully as I timidly described my tormenters at school, mother’s failure to sympathize, and my personal doubts as to God’s role in all this. I stopped abruptly when Naima brought the tea and placed the tray in front of me.

Using the knitted mitt, I grasped the silver teapot and poured some tea into one of the crystal glasses. Then, I poured the tea back in the pot and served us both. I glanced at the clock. Zakia would be coming in any minute and my chance would be lost. Haj nodded subtly, as if he understood my urgency, and went to get the Koran from the shelf. He put on his reading glasses, then took them off and wiped them with the cloth napkin that Naima had given him.

He paused before putting them on again and recited to me, “’Endure with patience, for your endurance is not without the help of God.’ God presents us all with different challenges, Reema. You must have patience and His wisdom will be revealed to you. All in good time.”

“But, why Haj? Why is God doing this? Making my skin change color all the time like I’m some kind of freak. What have I done wrong?”

Without answering, he opened the book to the very end and read me a verse:

As time passes,
Everyone suffers loss
Except those who believe
and do good deeds and urge one another to be true
and to bear with courage the trials that befall them.

I could hear Zakia coming down the stairs. I quickly noted the page so that I could go back to it later.

Haj closed the book and said softly to me, “You are young, Reema. What seems like a great ‘trial’ today may not seem so terrible later on. You are a good girl. Just be brave – and patient.”

He patted me lightly on my hand. Somehow, it did not feel patronizing or dismissive. The butterfly touch of his fingers gave me hope.

About the Author:
A native New Yorker, Eileen Colucci has been living in Rabat with her Moroccan husband for the past thirty-plus years. She is a former teacher and recently retired after twenty-eight years as a translator with the U.S. Embassy, Rabat. Her articles and short stories have appeared in various publications and ezines including Fodor's Morocco, Parents' Press, The New Dominion and Expat Women. SHE'S LIKE A RAINBOW, which was recently published, is her second novel.

Colucci holds a BA in French and English from the University at Albany and an MA in Education from Framingham State University.

When not writing, Colucci enjoys practicing yoga, taking long walks and playing with her chocolate Labrador Retriever, Phoebo. Now that she and her husband have four grandchildren, they spend as much time as possible in Virginia with their two sons and their families.


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