Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Karak Chai (recipe above in recipe tab)

My guest is multicultural author Zvezdana Rashkovich. She lived for many years in Portland, Oregon but her roots are Croatian/Serbian. Zvesdana's led a nomadic life both as a child and as an adult. She and her husband are currently posted in Dubai.

Zvezdana speaks of her road to publication. It's a fascinating story. Zvezdana will be checking in but keep in mind the time difference between Dubai and here.

When I was younger I had an inexhaustible faith in all things. I thought my life would turn out exactly as I planned. Some of it did, but other imaginings became distant memories of a young girl. On many long idle days I would daydream by the banks of the Blue Nile…surrounded by the soothing hum of the river, the swish of cornstalks my stepfather had planted and by the tender warmth of African sunshine. Before Africa there was the Balkans…the land of my grandfathers…the comforting bosom of my grandmother.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to write. Maybe my mother’s dramatic imagination, her quest for answers in distant places and among unfamiliar cultures led me to believe that it was my idea. When in fact, it had been hers all along, nourishing my mind, guiding and prodding. Her own unconcluded dreams somehow transferred…onto her daughter.

In any case I wrote. First little things. This and that. I wrote in Serbo Croat and when I learned English in a private school in Tripoli, Libya words poured out easier in that language.

Throughout my teens, I wrote. Still have those stories…some that surprise me because they were so well researched. But always stories of girls and women challenged by some unknown location, a place they had to adapt to…to learn to love. Only later would I realize that these girlish scribbling were my way of coping with displacement, with isolation and estrangement from my own homeland after my mother married my Sudanese stepfather, thus creating an irreversible course in my life.

As time passed I stopped sitting by the Nile and instead got distracted by other events. Michael Jackson, Madonna, the boys who honked at us in front of our all- girls’ Catholic school in Khartoum…my disintegrating family life as my stepfather left my mother, me and my two very young siblings. On a neglected farm…with little money and much heartache on our part.  I wrote enormously long entries in my diary during that period. I still read them today and blush at some of the absurdity, worries and made-up scenarios that had frightened me.

I got married and moved to the USA. The city of Portland in Oregon possessed a charm suited to my character at the time. It wasn’t as multicultural as my previous life in the Sudan had been. But I was taken by the city’s literary vibe, by the down to earth residents, the thriving art scene and the rainy foggy days…subsequently conducive to the activities of reading and writing.

As I raised four children, attended college, worked as a legal and medical interpreter in the USA, that old craving still niggled at me. It flickered on and off like a neon sign at the back of my mind. Write it said in persistent yellow letters.

When my oldest child left to university, I got a new computer and desk, and settled them by my bedroom window in Dubai. Then, just like that, overnight it seemed…it happened. I started writing a novel.
The realization that my lifelong quest was finally taken seriously, that I was doing that which I previously only dreamt of was exhilarating but riddled with awkward, tricky obstacles of which I was not previously aware. To write a ‘first’ full-length novel was not as easy as I had envisioned. It was an extraordinary but also gut-wrenchingly demanding journey on which I had embarked equipped with passion only.

Compounded with a busy life…children, husband, and all the other things that fill our existence…it seemed insurmountable. Many thought it must be the hormones; the middle age crisis or that I had unreachable aspirations. Those who knew me well though, never doubted me. Encouraged, supported, and loved by my mother, children and husband I plodded on. One word at a time.

My first novel, Dubai Wives, was a labor of visualizing such a story, planning, and observing. The characters were born out of a lifetime of immersion in a multicultural, multifaith existence, juxtaposed against the contradictory attitudes and lifestyles of Dubai.

A product of a nomadic background…a divided sense of identity…of third culture…I am fascinated, moved by stories of lives changed by their displacement, their yearning to belong…to adapt.

By those subtle and intricate threads that bind and unite us wherever we happen to be on this planet.

  • Readers: 
  • How have you dealt with the feeling of displacement? Perhaps moving to a different state or country, as a child, or adult, for a job, adventure, or military service? 
  • What common ties have you seen regardless of where you live?

Dubai: Here, many say, anything is possible. 
It’s a world of clashes, of contrasts. Incredible wealth and beauty coexist with unexpected poverty and heart wrenching wickedness. 
Spectacular palaces hide within, surrounded by their flawlessly landscaped gardens, shining domes, and dancing fountains. Possessively tucked away and watched over by grim security guards behind walls and ornate engraved iron gates. 
These walls are necessary because they guard their occupant’s secrets… 

Dubai Wives weaves a complex multicultural tale of unraveling secrets and diverse, flawed characters. The lives of eight women collide in this opulent, culturally vibrant city on a journey of sisterhood, friendship, love, betrayal and the heartbreaking choices of its residents.
We see Jewel, a beautiful but frustrated wife to her powerful Emirati husband, and Tara, a devout Muslim with a passionate secret, and Liliana, a tragic dancer in the seedy clubs of Dubai. A stirring tale encompassing, tradition, identity, and faith, Dubai Wives takes the reader into the hidden world behind the walls of lavish mansions and into the back alleys of Dubai, from the hills of Morocco to the glittering lights of the Burj Al Arab. It paints a portrait of a world where no one is who they seem to be...and where everything is possible. EXCERPT

BUY: AMAZON, AMAZON.caBARNES and NOBLEChapters Indigo, ca

I was born in Croatia to a Croatian mother and Serbian father. My mother married a Sudanese when I was seven and their mutual fascination with travel and adventure led us all on a series of travels and expat posting first to Libya, then Iraq.

Later, we settled in Sudan after an overland trip by ship, car and train across Eastern Europe, Egypt and the Sahara. Here started my introduction and fascination with multiculture and particularly with the Arab world.

Immersed in my stepfather's family, culture, religion and language I was fortunate to attend an International Catholic school for girls, attended by a beautiful vibrant community of multicultural and multi-faith students.

When I was twenty two I married a Sudanese/Egyptian and we moved to the United States in a quest for education, ended up staying for a decade and started our family at the foothills and forests of Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Middle East beckoned us again due to its proximity to our families back in Sudan, Egypt, Croatia and Serbia. We wanted our children to grow up understanding more of who they are and where they come from.

Thus begun our fifteen year stint in the Gulf. First in Qatar, which I love dearly and still call home, and then Dubai, a vibrant city of many possibilites and contradictions.  
I am a mom to four gorgeous third culture children, wife, and sister to four amazing multiracial siblings...daughter of an extaordinary woman.

I am an Adult Third Culture Kid, freelance writer, blogger, teacher and Interpreter...I am also the author of a novel 'Dubai Wives' which was a product of my observations and fascination with identity, culture, biracialism and the hidden passions, aspirations and dreams that drive women in particular and people in general.

Currently, I am working on a novel 'Africa in the way I dance' set in 1970's Sudan. The novel, based partly on my life growing up on a farm by the Nile aims to portray the marvelous complexity of that fascinating country and its people as told through the eyes of a thirteen year old European girl.

Find Zvezdana: Website, Facebook 


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome, Zvezdana! What a fascinating view into your life and the things that shaped your writing.

I've found, regardless of where I live in the world, there are many common ties between people. Love of family,making a living, wanting the best for our children. We might speak different languages, but those things are constants, aren't they?

Zvezdana said...

Thank you Sia for having me over for 'coffee' or your very thoughtful Karak Chai:) It's my favorite hot beverage right after a frothy latte and it's widely enjoyed in the Middle East and Arabian Gulf countries. A pleasure getting to know you and share some of my journey/struggle as a writer.

sy said...

Do you ever think of returning to the US or Europe?

Tonya Kappes said...

Beautiful cover! As a writer, I think that the best feeling when you move is that there are writers groups to join, or the online community is always there.
Thanks for sharing today!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Although I was born in the UK, for three years I lived in Spain closeby to my youngest son.
For reasons which are to upsetting to write about (It regards my eldest son) I moved back to the UK.I however wish I could move back there, I felt more at home there, made many friends and it was there I started my blog.I belonged to many clubs which they don't have here.

Enjoyed your post very much.

Zvezdana said...

Hi Sy,
I love going back to Europe-Croatia and Serbia where I have family and I also love to visit the US. Living there full time however, would be hard because a part of would feel unfulfilled. I enjoy the multiculturism and diversity found in these parts of the world so different from anywhere else.

Zvezdana said...

Thank you so much Tonya!
My son, who is an advertising major helped me with ideas for the cover and I am glad I listened to him. Yes, I love the sense of belonging that comes through mutual interests like writing especially since it's so personal. The members of my writing group have seen inside my soul on many occassions...:)

Jo said...

I was born in England, moved all over the place during and after the war, then travelled over a lot of Europe for many years. Finally I moved to Canada, also lived in the States and then back to Canada again - I personally think of myself as a citizen of the world, not of one country although legally the powers that be wouldn't agree.

Fascinating background you have as a basis for your writing - I too have written for years, mostly poetry as a young woman, then I tried children's stories which I lost in a PC meltdown. Blogging seems to be my metier though.

Zvezdana said...

Thank you for your kind comment My world of poetry:)
Sometimes being in a foreign location inspires us to become more creative. And Spain would definitely be one of those places, the sunshine, the sea, music and the passion of its people are fuel enough.

Zvezdana said...

Hi Jo and thanks so much,
I wonder whether you passed by the Balkans on your European travels? It is much nicer now, after the civil war, Croatia has a beutiful coastline and is chock full of British tourists during the summer. It sounds like you have led a fascinating life yourself and probably have many stories to tell. As for belonging everywhere and nowhere and being a citizen of the world I can identify with that. It's equally wonderful and saddening isn't it? I will check out your blog for sure:)

Jo said...

Actually yes Zvezdana, I went to what was called Yugoslavia in those days. We started in Budva and sailed up the coast. I eventually had to fly home (my parents lived on a boat in the Med) to go to work, but yes the coast is really lovely and some of the old Frankish towns were really fascinating. Apart from the airport at Zagreb, I never went inland unfortunately. I was there when communism was rife and Tito was in charge. Same year they walked on the moon.

Kat Sheridan said...

What an interesting life, and the book sounds wonderful! I've loved lots of places but I find that people everywhere are the same if you give them a chance; kind, generous, and helpful.

Mason Canyon said...

Zvezdana, what a fascinating life you have lived and it's wonderful that you finally began to write and share your stories. I've never traveled outside the US but it sounds like a great adventure to live in so many places. Wishing you much success.

Sia, thanks for the introduction to Zvezdana and her work.

Thoughts in Progress

DrieCulturen said...

Hello Zvezdana. Great to find another guest blog by you on the web. I like the story. I feel the same urge to write. I believe everyone has a story to tell but some stories have more colour & variety etc, like yours. I can relate to the warmth of the African sun (having lived there for the first 19 years of my life). Greetings Janneke

~Sia McKye~ said...

I really like multicuture books. I love seeing another world, culture, and views. I'm looking forward to reading this one, Zvezdana! I also love the cover.

Janneke, thanks for stopping by. I do agree, everyone has a story to tell and some are really fascinating.

Online writing groups are wonderful. I belong to a great one. I learn so much from fellow writers and pubbed authors there.

Houston A.W. Knight said...

OMG...Love the new look (yap, it's been awhile) but it was the music that captured me heart!

I just might keep your blog up all day just to hear the music!

Love the post


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She's lived in some exotic places.
I'm a military brat so I've lived all over. It's easier on kids - we adapt faster. And I always had my family which provided stability.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Hawk. It suits me Celtic soul, as you can imagine.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex, military brat here, too. We do adapt well. I had a big family 7 brothers and a couple sisters, and foster sister. Family was the constant no matter where we were.

Renee said...

Wow! I cannot even imagine such a life as yours. I cannot wait to read your book as your writing here has a voice that I yearn to hear. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

A yearning to belong is one of the great themes of literature because it is one of the great themes of our lives.

I've never had major cultural displacements in my life, just minor ones that were overcome simply by getting used to the new place. And the way I got used to the new place was to do the same thing (walking) or go to the same place (a coffee shop) every day to establish a comforting routine.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I agree, pat, establishing routines help. You can't get to know people if you don't get out and meet them. :-)

Zvezdana said...

Wow thank you ALL so much for these lovley comments and encouraging words of support! I am so happy that you took the time to read and send me such positive feedback.
I like how the yearning to belong has resonated with all, even those who might not have been displaced physically from a place...I agree there are different kinds of displacements and everybody finds different ways to cope.

Helen Ginger said...

You've lived a fascinating life and now you've put bits and pieces of yourself into your stories. How wonderful! I've never felt the displacement that you have, but my family did move quite a bit, all within the U.S., though.

Talli Roland said...

Wow! That sounds like an intriguing read. Having lived in a few different countries, I can certainly relate to the feeling of displacement.

Zvezdana said...

HI Helen and Talli and thanks for your kind commments.
Most of the time I feel fortunate to have had the life I did. Many days though, I wonder what if? and how it would have turned out if I had stayed in the little town in Croatia and my mom never married an African. It fills me with sadness but then I realize how much more I have learned due to her choices.
It definitely gives me material for writing! For that I am grateful.
I am glad you enjoyed the read and even more glad that Sia had me over for coffee:)
Thanks again Sia... for the Chai, for being such a great hostess and for introducing me to this lovely community of writers and bloggers