Me Too stories of sexual assault have dominated the headlines in the western world, but across the water, in the Arab world, the issue remains an elusive one.
“I wrote this story because I wanted to face my own demons. I had to face myself and the things that happened to me. I am not a hero and I’m not a victim. I dreamed of fame and power and I gave up a lot of things for that,” said the former Lebanese actress and television and radio host.
Masks is a dark fictional tale based on the author’s true-life events. The protagonist, Ana, is an Armenian girl born in Lebanon in the seventies. She achieves fame and fortune as a prominent television host in the Middle East, but at an incredible cost.
Restokian says Ana’s story is not unique, but in the Middle East, it’s one rarely told.
“Masks that women are obliged to wear inspired me to write this novel, based partly on real events in my life and partially to include the pain of so many other women that I witnessed along the way,” said Restokian.
“I decided to become their voice because they do not dare to speak up in a world where social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that, behind closed doors, have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of their lives.”
Restokian, who now lives in Montreal with her husband, says she wants to start the #metoo movement in Lebanon, opening up about her own sexual harassment.
“I survived rape, I was assaulted sexually. It gives me to pain to say this. If I said this over there (Lebanon), I would be branded as a prostitute rather than a survivor of trauma,” she said.
The author says although Lebanon is one of the most advanced and open-minded countries in the Middle East, they have a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights and equality.
“Women are judged more for their physical appearance than their talent. Women are expected to be virgins, while that standard doesn’t apply to men. If you have a scandal, you disappear. You are condemned.”
The author’s journey is much like her character’s. Restokian left the glamour and pitfalls of her celebrity life behind when she met her now-husband. They met on the Internet while she was still married. Their first date was in Los Angeles.
“We spend one night together and after that my whole world turned upside down. I left everything behind to be with him. People should read the book to know what happened.”
Restokian lives a much quieter life now in Montreal, but a much happier one. She says her husband, who is the love of her life, has been instrumental in her recovery from abuse.
“The love and light he shines on me is so much more powerful than what I had before. He sees me for who I am and loves me for who I am.”
Since Tellwell published Masks in March 2018, it’s received rave reviews including five-stars from the Midwest Book Review, Canadian/Australian award-winning author Lyn Hancock, professional reviewer Divine Zape. Nataly Restokian has been busy doing media interviews in the U.S. appearing on The Frankie Boyer Show, Inspirational Women Radio with Kate Daniels, New York Fashion Magazine Fashion Maniac, and Popoff Show and many more.
The Montreal-based author is determined to bring the story to life on the tv or big screen. Right now, she is preparing to go on a media tour in the United States and is looking at booking speaking engagements. She is also developing the follow-up to Masks, which will include other women’s stories she heard first-hand when she visited Lebanon earlier this year.
Masks is so much more than a writing project for Restokian, it is a journey towards healing, and a voice for women who have long been silenced.