Lisa Ray says her new book is not a cancer memoir

Lisa Ray says her new book is not a cancer memoir

Ray, who made an appearance at the Sharjah International Book Fair on Friday, tells us why her writing debut, Close To The Bone, is about so much more than just her battle with the disease

By Enid Parker

Published: Sun 3 Nov 2019, 8:55 AM

Last updated: Sat 9 Nov 2019, 2:14 PM

Actress, activist and author Lisa Ray, star of films like Kasoor, Water and Bollywood/Hollywood, made a courageous choice back in 2009 - to publicly reveal her battle with multiple myeloma - a rare form of blood cancer. Now, 10 years later, her first book, Close To The Bone, published in May, details not only her cancer battle but her artistic and personal journey as well. We caught up with Lisa ahead of her appearance at the Sharjah International Book Fair on Friday.
How do you feel about making an appearance at the Sharjah International Book Fair this year?
I'm excited and grateful. I'm looking forward to connecting with readers and bibliophiles. Books and art have been my most enduring passions in life and one of the best parts is meeting other souls who place writing and words at the apex of human achievement.
What was the most difficult part about opening up about your life in Close To The Bone?
It's a humbling and exhilarating process for me. The genesis of Close to the Bone is a story in and of itself, but suffice it to say that I have always written and taken note of the strange circumstances of my life, knowing one day I'd write about it. Today I operate from a place of honesty so much so that speaking truth about myself comes very naturally. But the book is not only about the experiences of my life, but how I share the story. The written word is sacred and I was humbled by the visitation of sentences and words to help express my story in a way that is meaningful for me and seems to resonate with the reader. That's what I hoped for. 
You have battled and survived cancer. What message do you want to give out to your fans through your book?
This is not a cancer memoir. There is no defining message. If you read Close to the Bone you will discover out of 400 odd pages only the last 50 or so are devoted to my cancer journey. It was never my intention to write only about cancer as that does not define my artistic nor personal journey.
What books/authors have inspired you? Are there any that particularly helped you through troubled times?
Why only troubled times? I read for joy, to understand the realm of power contained in the human experience. To see myself in others. Authors I hold dear are Pico Iyer, Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Richard Powers, Jeanette Wintersen.every writer has left an imprint on my soul.
How did battling cancer alter your perspective in life?
I would encourage you to read Close to the Bone to understand that. But why only highlight cancer? I've wrestled with many other issues: identity, anorexia, low-self esteem, finding my voice and place in the world. I've embraced all of these experiences without judgment, but I'm grateful for the lessons and the adventures. 
How do you feel about Bollywood films today?
It's a positive trend. But the most positive trend is getting more women in decision-making roles behind the camera to help tell stories with more nuanced female characters.
You have spoken about being comfortable in the skin of a writer and as such are coming up with three other books. Did you ever imagine that you would one day turn into a published author? Has Close to the Bone changed your perspective about yourself in any way?
Yes, I always imagined I would step into the skin of a writer. It's been my only aspiration in life. My career in front of the camera has been completely and utterly accidental and I have never felt entirely comfortable in that role - it's like wearing an itchy garment for so many years. 
What legacy do you want to leave for your daughters?
To fight for your unique voice in a world that encourages conformity. To understand that your differences are your strength. To live from an open hearted presence and to understand that life is for you, not against you. To borrow a quote from Walt Whitman: to re-examine all you have been told and to dismiss what insults your soul.
We all tend to learn important lessons about courage and resilience only when we are at our lowermost point in life. Do you believe we need to learn to embrace the positives more?
I'm loathe to be reductive about this. I think each person's journey is so highly individualistic that it's hard to make generalisations. We are story tellers - because each of us will experience the same birth to death path in a unique way. 

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