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Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  249 ratings  ·  47 reviews
“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 move
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 4th 2013 by Viking (first published April 1st 2013)
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When I was first asked to review HARLEY LOCO, I wasn't sure how I would fancy it since it's a bit out of my ordinary reading zone. However, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the writing style and over all story. It's a different voice than I'm used to and I'm glad I've had the chance to read it.

Rayya is a natural storyteller, with a voice that reels you in. She takes us on a ride through her life as a "rough diamond", (as quoted by her friend Elizabeth Gilbert) w
It happened just like this.
Or sort of like this,with different people and maybe the order of things is scrambled.
Certainly nothing happened as clearly as described.
This is a memoir,for fucks sake,and that word obviously derives from the word memory.
Even the most meticulous observer experiences lapses in memory;and everybody knows
a junky is not the most meticulous,or reliable,of observers.

But Rayya Elias tries so hard to be just that.
"This is my truth,and it may not be pretty,but I own
Harley Loco grabbed me my the hair in the first two pages and didn't let go. I was completely engrossed, not only because I know Rayya Elias, but because her (mis)adventures in NYC are at once jaw-dropping, exhilarating, and heartbreaking. Brave, unvarnished, and sometimes just plain crazy, Harley Loco is quite a ride.
Alice Dinizo
Rayya Elias fled Syria with her family in the 1960's and the Eliases settled in Detroit where they felt comfortable in the large community of Syrian refugees residing there.But as Rayya tells the reader in this well-written, readable and totally absorbing memoir, she became the victim of bullies in her school, and by seventh grade, had decided to rebel. Sadly, the years in which she did so were the wild years of the 1970's and 1980's. She wanted desperately to become a musician but also finds sh ...more
I did not know what to expect from this book. To be honest this is not typically the type of book that is usually at the top of my reading genre list. However I want to expand my reading spectrum. Also, the title of the book is what did have me a little intrigued…Harley Loco: A Memoir of Living, Hair, and Post-Punk from the Middle East to the Lower East Side.

I am the total opposite of Rayya. I never went through a rebellious stage nor have I really been into the punk music. So I guess you could
Once again, a big shout out to the Reading Room for my review copy of this book.

I rarely read memoir, as most of the time I find it either dull or heavy on the misery/shock value. Fortunately, Rayya Elias's memoir, Harley Loco is neither of these things, which makes (for me, anyway,) interesting reading. With Harley Loco, the reader is taken through the author's early childhood in Syria, her family's transition to America and the long and wild journey that Elias makes to first discover and accep
Sian Lile-Pastore
i'm pretty amazed by this, which i've just read in a day, unable to stop myself. In the main it's about drug addiction and getting clean, but it's also about other things... loneliness, cutting hair, being gay, being different, not fitting in and 80s new york (which I never tire of reading about).
it's got a warmth and immediacy to it and i particularly liked the beginning where she writes about her parents first meeting and her childhood in syria.
towards the end it gets a little hard going, wha
One part of me, wanted to not dive into this book you know and just read it from the surface. Maybe the real gritty texture of this story was too much. Just like in life, sometimes it is easier to look away...
What makes this book special is it pulls you in slowly, brick by brick bringing you down a path with Rayya where you wonder, "My God? How did she survive?"
What an incredible life.
When her mom was first in the hospital, sick, I loved that scene where Habibity was forced to tell the details o
The ending catapulted this book from a 4- to a 5-star experience for me.

Elias' story proves that the truth is more fabulous than fiction. She takes us from her parents' courtship and her Syrian childhood through her struggle with addiction. Through it all Rayya struggled to find real romantic love.

Rayya takes ownership of her part in her troubled past but she also de-glamorizes the experience. Her writing proves that a raw experience can be conveyed without rampant vulgarity (a la Storm Large).
‘I’ve realized that the edge of living without substance is razor sharp and cuts deeper than everything else. The experience is more radical than any high I’ve ever known. Yes, life can sometimes be dull and mundane, but most of the time, it’s more interesting and exciting than anything I experienced when I simply plunged into it without thinking.’

Rayya Elias’s book is an autobiographical account of a life draped in drug abuse, hard partying and sexual exploration. The tale begins in Elias’s chi
Rayya Elias has given the world her life on a silver platter. She is incredibly candid about her sexuality and her struggle with addiction. The book is a hard-hitting, no holds barred, unapologetic memoir that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Being a memoir the book is obviously spoken in the narrative. What’s incredible about the read is that Rayya’s life plays out like a movie. You will have a hard time believing the woman actually lived each of the experiences; that the book is pure exaggeration o
This is a memoir by a woman born in Syria, raised in Detroit, and educated on the streets of 1980s New York City. She is a hairdresser, a musician, a lesbian, a drug addict. Elias's descriptions of her life are completely unflinching: her talents as a stylist and musician are devoid of any humility, but her moments of weakness and crimes against her loved ones are presented without any excuses or pleas for sympathy. Her world is one of her own making, for better or for worse. I would have apprec ...more
Sally Kitter
Love, loved this book and did not want to put it down. Not your typical memoir, but one I insist you don't miss out on.
Gritty and raw, but with a touch of humor and a whole heap of heart.
As an added bonus, Elias includes a web page in the back of the book. Booking information, tour dates, photos, and much more including several of her own songs can be heard and downloaded there. "A soundtrack for the book." says Elias. This is one talented and brilliant woman.
i could see how this would have been interesting if you were sitting with the author somewhere and she was regaling you with her tales, but it doesn't translate very well onto the page. just story after story of her doing dumb shit & fucking people over & getting into fights. you don't get to know or care about any of the people involved. i read it on an overnight shift & it fulfilled its purpose of keeping me awake, but left me feeling empty inside.
A. Gulden
He was fourteen and I was two, the oldest and the youngest, the two that would always be synonymous as opposites.

My mother, for her part, became a seamstress, mending the rips and tears of other people’s lives as she let mine fall to the wayside.

At home, I got into bed with rock and roll in my heart and Sophia on my lips.

It was intoxicating and sexy, mind-exploding—it took the razor-sharp edge of reality and blurred it, turning the world into a beautiful, loosely rendered watercolor.

I was record
I started this book a couple of times before I finally got into it. Ultimately I found it to be charming — I was rooting for Rayya even as I cringed at her lifestyle and questionable decisions. But I think that's what makes this such a good book. Even though it's gritty and dark and very cringe-making, the voice is so strong and determined. That, and even though it's a train wreck, Rayya's story is really revealing. Its raw and bleak, but it's also a glimpse into a world that I knew very little ...more
Very real writing from a very real person....
Nothing flowery or fake in this memoir.
Love her spirit. Grateful she was able to share her story.
Rayya Elias bares her soul in this tale of immigration, fitting in, drug abuse, and trying to stay alive. Born in Syria, Rayya and her family moved to Michigan when she was a child to escape war. She found a different war, however, in the form of cruel bullying and emerging sexuality. Discovering that she loved women, she hid her true self from her family for years. Thanks to a co-dependent, convoluted relationship with a certain woman, Rayya experimented with drugs, which lead to addiction, hom ...more
She just wanted to be loved by the right person. Always chasing after something, good and bad. Fascinating read.
RAYYA Elias has lived the life of a rock star. A naturally talented stylist, the almost self-taught hair-cutter became a hairdresser to the stars, working for Vidal Sassoon by day and honing her skills as an electro pop 80s music star by night. Invited to the hottest parties in New York City’s 1980s heyday of drugs, girls and glitter, Elias had it all: male and female lovers, free drugs and booze and, most importantly, access to the exclusive art, music and fashion worlds. Until it all fell apar ...more
Megan Geissler
The writing sometimes blows but the story was compelling and I appreciated the use of music as the connecting theme throughout the book. She is not a writer but someone with an experience and it made me curious to learn more about the time period, the setting, the evolution of the author, etc. The insights on her pretty awful life are sincere and at times, unpleasant, but the portrait painted is a vivid one.
Rayya Elias has definitely lead an interesting and crazy life, a life worth reading about. But her writing fails to live up to the stories within it. There is no polish, no artistry, just words on the page, flat and bland, with forced attempts at literary flair. Raw writing can be capitvating and intense, or it can totally underwhelm with its amaturism. This book definitely did the latter.
Well-- I finished it. Not terribly written, but not terribly insightful. The author finds humility in the end, but does little else to make me like her. Addiction is always interesting enough. Blood on the walls. Terribleness. Men with nicknames like Crusty Joe or Pete, or whatever. All that. Lesbianism. That's fine too, but not so terribly interesting anymore. I'm still not sure why this woman's story is interesting enough to warrant a book. She's good at cutting hair, getting into painful roma ...more
Glenda Franzwa
Rayya takes you on a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, hopelessness and recovery. This is a brave memoir written by a very brave woman. She is living proof that life can offer us many chances to find our way gain our walk in the light. Great read, highly recommend.
I sat down to read "one chapter" which turned into "one more chapter" until I read the whole thing today. Absolutely delicious. Thank you for sharing you, Rayya
Harley loco

good read. she writes in an easy to read manner that kept my interest. I was sorry that it needed so soon.
Kath Venables
I heard Rayya Elias interviewed on ABC radio. Loved the interview and found her book so raw, engaging, but also inspiring
Sarah Catherine
Even though this memoir was hard hitting and upsetting at times, I really enjoyed it. It really blew my mind and I'm glad I read it.
Jane Kennedy
Enjoyed her writing style and her honesty, love a genuine story.
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