“It is my honor to introduce these pages—so gravelly, so straggly, so hopeful, bright, and true.” —Elizabeth Gilbert
When she was seven, Rayya Elias and her family fled the political conflict in their native Syria, settling in Detroit. Bullied in school and caught between the world of her traditional family and her tough American classmates, she rebelled early.
Elias moved to New York City to become a musician and kept herself afloat with an uncommon talent for cutting hair. At the height of the punk movement, life on the Lower East Side was full of adventure, creative inspiration, and temptation. Eventually, Elias’s passionate affairs with lovers of both sexes went awry, her (more than) occasional drug use turned to addiction, and she found herself living on the streets—between her visits to jail.
This debut memoir charts four decades of a life lived in the moment, a path from harrowing loss and darkness to a place of peace and redemption. Elias’s wit and lack of self-pity in the face of her extreme highs and lows make Harley Loco a powerful read that’s sure to appeal to fans of Patti Smith, Augusten Burroughs, and Eleanor Henderson.
Praise for Harley Loco
“[A] compulsively page-turning memoir…Haunting and mesmerizing, Elias’s story captures powerfully the vulnerability of being an outsider and the deep yearnings to be a part of something.”—Publishers Weekly
“First time author Elias, who has been clean since 1997, has enough distance to speak on her past unashamedly, with clear-eyed intelligence and without judging her younger self too harshly…strong stuff, with some truly amazing stories well told..”—Kirkus Reviews
"Rayya Elias's life reads like Huck Finn on heroin. Her story of fleeing Syria as a child, growing up in Detroit and spending her young adulthood trolling around the East Village is as American as they come, including as it does immigration, addiction and hard won deliverance. Through it all Elias's voice burns fire hot and is completely engaging." —Darcey Steinke
“Rayya Elias's Harley Loco grabs you by the throat on the very first page, and then never stops shaking you -- even after you've closed the book. It's a punk song disguised as a memoir: raw, slashing, gritty, and shot through with all the wild confusion of youth. But it's also wise, unpredictable, and relentlessly affecting.” —Jonathan Miles
“Rayya Elias's twisted, devastating memoir of a life lived on the margins can take its rightful place alongside The Basketball Diaries, Please Kill Me and Just Kids as a classic, blood-stained love letter to bohemian NYC.” —Craig Marks
“Rayya Elias's recovery/coming out/East Village memoir brutally and honestly reminds us that replacing love with drugs keeps a woman a child. The redemption here is in her Syrian immigrant family. Their undying love and persistence remains her anchor and moves the reader to that place of transcendence that only unconditional love can create.” —Sarah Schulman
“Do any of us really know ourselves? This kind of exploration into the human spirit is what true religion is about.” —Deborah Harry