Still a Classic, Sixty-six Years On by Eileen Colucci – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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.

STILL A CLASSIC, SIXTY-SIX YEARS ON
My favorite Young Adult novel also happens to be my favorite book of all time, J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. What is it about this book that makes it still so popular among teens as well as adults? For me, Holden Caulfield’s tale is the ultimate coming of age story: a teenager, grappling with the death of a sibling and fearful of losing his younger sister reaches a crisis, flees the school from which he has been expelled, and goes on a road trip. As he tries to make sense of his life, Holden Caulfield epitomizes teenage angst and alienation and does so with much humor.

When I first read the book in high school, I was a teenager like Holden and totally identified with him and his disdain for all the “phonies” out there. That included certain of my classmates, a few teachers and sometimes adults in general. The timing was important too. My father, who’d also loved this book, had recently died and I understood how confused and depressed Holden felt. We had both suffered the loss of a loved one.

Many years later, my teenage son was reading the book for school and I picked it up and reread it. It was a totally different book. This time I identified with Holden’s mother (who was mostly absent from the actual narrative), experiencing it as the parent of a troubled child, my heart going out to him and wanting to absorb his pain. As an adult, though, I could still identify with Holden himself. Memories of my own adolescence were stirred. I remembered all the feelings of awkwardness, of not “fitting in.” But, thanks to Holden, I was able to laugh about them.

SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW is also a coming of age story. The main character and narrator, Reema, experiences many of the things all teenagers, including Holden, go through: alienation, anxiety, identity crisis, and just plain wishing to be “normal” and like everyone else. The challenges that Reema faces are similar to those that confront any young person. Her changing skin tones could be compared to a disability or any condition (underweight or overweight, for example) that causes a person to feel like an outsider and to be the object of ridicule and bullying. Throughout the novel, Reema strives to “feel good in her own skin,” something we can all identify with regardless of our age or gender.

I imagine that Reema might have read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE too. She would surely have identified with Holden as I did. It might even have been one of her favorite books.

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!
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“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.

 

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.

Enjoy 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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Comments

  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. Thanks so much for hosting me!

  3. congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  4. I haven’t read Catcher in the Rye in years, but I do remember enjoying the story quite a bit.

    She’s Like a Rainbow sounds like a great read. Thanks for telling us about it.

  5. James Robert says:

    Thanks so much for the terrific excerpt and giveaway and Congrats on the tour.

  6. Bernie Wallace says:

    What was your favorite book growing up? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win.

  7. Bernie Wallace says:

    What is the best book that you have read in the past year? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win.

  8. Thank you for the great excerpt and congratulations on your tour!

  9. Bernie Wallace says:

    What book would you like to see a sequel to? Thanks for the giveaway. I hope that I win.

    • I would like to read a sequel to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. That was one book I liked so much I didn’t want it to end. And there are a few things left hanging at the end that I’d like to see resolved.

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