Masks, the debut novel from Nataly Restokian, takes readers on a journey through Anna’s persistent struggle to find true, authentic happiness in an environment that marginalizes women. Inspired by the author’s personal experiences as a television personality in the Middle East, Masks reveals through Anna the uncensored reality of the way women are treated in the Arab world and the hidden traps found within the glamorous circles of fame and fortune.
As an Armenian girl growing up in Lebanon, Anna had suffered unspeakable hardships, including rape, with the country’s civil war a constant backdrop. Against all odds, she fiercely works her way into a successful television career as an adult, but her fame and loveless marriage only serve to bind her ever tighter to society’s expectations.
She combats her husband’s infidelities with her own steady stream of lovers, but each encounter only underscores the emptiness in her heart until the unexpected happens: a passion-filled night with a handsome Canadian awakens untested emotions inside her. Suddenly, she’s ready to risk everything she’s ever known for a stranger who lives oceans away. Will Anna find the freedom and true happiness that she so desperately seeks, or will Middle Eastern society’s unrelenting grip prove too powerful?
Do you feel the #MeToo and #times up movement are relevant to events in your novel, and if so could you elaborate on you?
Wherever women and minorities are ambitious for success, powerful men will be there to exploit them. Whereverit takes place -in television studios, in the creative arts, in the halls of power, in royal palaces -its always the same ,and its victims are afraid they will lose everything if they speak up ,so they cry alone.
Why did you choose “Masks “as the title of your book?
We live in a world under the influence of social, religious, and traditional obligations that are dictated to us. We hide behind masks, repressing our courage, ambitions, and sometimes even our destiny. The title is Masksbecause the novel explores how much strength we need to be able to remove those masks, thereby destroying all obstacles and reaching our goals regardless of the consequences.
What does the novel talk about?
In a society in which men dominate women, the story follows an ambitious girl who is one of the few people to realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare ask for a divorce, and where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded. The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world in which social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
Taking into consideration the social customs of the Arab culture, this novel is covered with many controversial characters, sexual taboos including royals, celebrities, men in power. What prompted you to write so boldly about?
I focused on taboos and corruption as a regional phenomenon in order to allow the rest of the world to embrace our differences and similarities, and to see the Arab world from other angles than the stereotypical one of terrorism or extremely sexy women.
If talking about human suffering, celebrity secrets, the abuse of women, civil war, and the humiliation of homosexuals in the Arab world generally and Lebanon specifically is a reason for backlash then evidently I might get shot very soon.
Author Nataly Restokian is the granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors. Born and raised in Lebanon, Restokian spent nearly two decades as a television journalist, actress, talk show host and radio host in the Lebanese and Arabic societies. She also worked as a marketing manager for three different economic and industrial magazines in Lebanon. She rose through the ranks before giving it all up for a chance at happiness and true love. Today, Restokian is married and living in Montreal. She is working on her second novel.