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My writing tackles issues of human rights, homophobia, racism, gender and class inequalities regardless of the ideologies within which they swirl: religion, culture, political persuasion, or social class. If an ideology abuses any of those issues, then it’s fair game for critical analysis. LGBTQI issues are central and my message is unequivocal: don’t mess with us. Pansies’ Revenge says it all.

My Mum’s family is Lebanese and my Dad is fourth generation Kiwi. I grew up confused and bemused by the ins and outs of bi-cultural life in 1950s New Zealand (having been born in Wellington in 1955). What is it to be an outsider, or one who feels as such? That’s central in my thinking.

For 30 years I worked in education, HIV/AIDS responses, social welfare, human rights – 20 of them in Papua New Guinea including seven years as head of UN Women in that utterly amazing country. In that role for UN Women my emotions and thinking were sharpened by witnessing and responding to the abuse women and girls suffer. For three years I lived with my husband Stuart in a remote part of Bougainville, where together we ‘managed’ a programme to assist the reintegration of ex-combatants. The Bougainville Civil War was just finishing. I saw what war did and how people got so scrambled by fear and loss and pain and how resilience is so required, so human.

My doctoral dissertation concerns Islamic education and came from my research in Karachi. I taught for three years at Kuwait University in the early 1980s (where I met Stuart) during the Iran-Iraq War raging next door. The Lebanese Civil War kept on and on and tormented me. Palestine came sharply into my focus. Over the decades I’ve travelled extensively in Arab countries. A year in Paris at UNESCO involved in HIV/AIDS education allowed me to meet many more Arabs. Yusef, Omar, Fawzi, Saad, Abed, Adil, thank you for your insights into what it means to be gay, Arab, refugee, hounded, and extraordinary. I hope I did you guys justice in The Smile of the Dispossessed.

And Mexico? Surely the fabulous Mexico is a part of my soul by now. Equally, I hope that theme comes through in Sucking Feijoas. And New Zealand? Pansies’ Revenge and Sucking Feijoas allow insights into my relationship with those shaky isles and how homophobia darkened the lives of LGBTQI for generations. What thrills me is seeing nowadays leaders who get it. Thank you, Fran, Helen and Jacinda.

I guess I’m “a child of the 60s” and shaped by that decade’s maxim: QUESTION AUTHORITY. I live by that and I hope my fiction resounds with it.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR

LGBTQIpressNZ@gmail.com

THE SMILE OF THE DISPOSSESSED

The Smile of the Dispossessed is set in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Malaysia and Indonesia. It tells the story of Fadhi and Adam who flee Baghdad in the final days of the Saddam Hussein regime when they are outed as “sexual deviants” and accused of being enemies of the state. Despite having been lovers for many years, under the pressures of being refugees, they separate and go their own ways, both men hoping to find freedom in a country that will accept them for who they are.

Within the context of shifting ideological and social norms and political allegiances, the novel explores the lives of men who have sex with men. What it means to be a refugee and dispossessed of one’s dignity, identity and security is central to this novel. The Smile of the Dispossessed demonstrates the enduring requirement to maintain faith in humanity, oneself, and the power of love.

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I loved this book about a Palestinian and Iraqi gay couple looking for asylum in different countries and couldn’t put it down. (…) Exploring sexuality, politics, religion and underground networks that help or threaten refugees, it opened worlds to me I found fascinating. – Amazon reviewer
I loved this book (…) It’s compelling and it reads beautifully – the language is often lyrical and poetic. This is an elegant book: romance, the tragedy of migration and the difficulties of being LGB in repressive settings are all presented in a well-written novel. – Amazon reviewer
PANSIES' REVENGE

It is late 1918 and in Wellington, New Zealand, four years of world war and the ravages of the Spanish flu are taking their toll on the inhabitants.

All are not for King and Country. The members of the Te Aro book club: queer, feminist, bohemian, disgruntled, are accused of sedition for reading Crime and Punishment and drawing from it the roots of the problems facing the world. The more intently they read, the more the crazed characters of the book appear to manifest themselves in Wellington.

Intrigues deepen: Cecil and Sybil Meatyard, who work the crowds to a frenzy of patriotism in the streets of Wellington for the New Zealand Women’s Anti-German League, disappear. Their diatribes about war shirkers, spies and Pansies have upset a lot of people. The sinister Crawford Denton, detective and sensualist, follows the case. A 1918 MeToo Movement begins as the influenza pandemic takes hold.

This vibrant, entertaining, often darkly Gothic story is filled with passion, love, pathos, farce and humour. Pansies’ Revenge lays bare the political, social and cultural fabric of New Zealand society at a pivotal time in the nation’s history.

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SUCKING FEIJOAS

George thinks he’s a real man…until he is seduced by an American serviceman on duty in New Zealand during WW2.

Neddy, the son of Lebanese migrants, marries a peasant girl in an attempt to overcome his attraction to men.

Garth, an intellectual, working-class Catholic boy, escapes to Mexico but eventually returns to reveal a painful secret.

Set in New Zealand, Lebanon and Mexico between 1942 and 1986, SUCKING FEIJOAS follows the lives of gay men and how, with ingenuity, courage and love, they managed their lives – despite the odds. Now in its third edition, this deeply engaging story about sexuality, class, race and the culture wars that surrounded them, is as relevant as ever. SUCKING FEIJOAS is riveting storytelling, gay history, empowering.

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I’m a great fan of this classic of gay literature, nostalgic yet tormented, unforgettable. – Fay Weldon
With humour and tenderness, this richly rewarding novel charts half a century in the lives of three gay men in New Zealand, and the suffering that comes from leading a double life. Story telling at its best: intelligent, entertaining, insightful, passionate. – Gay Men’s Press

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