Interviewing Anne Frandi-Coory

Luciana Cavallaro – *author *writer *historian *teacher *university supervisor

Today, I would like to introduce to you an amazing lady and friend, Anne Frandi-Coory. We connected on Twitter five years ago, when another equally lovely lady, Melanie Selemidis recommended Anne to read my short stories. It was from then on, we found we had not only a common interest in ancient history and mythology, but we also shared the same culture, an Italian heritage. I’ve since read her heart-wrenching autobiographical/memoir, Whatever happened to Ishtar? and more recently, read her latest publication, Dragons, Deserts, and Dreams: poems, short stories and artworks. Her latest book, is a unique collection of poetry, artwork and stories of her familial heritage. Click here for my review of the book.

Anne blog

Anne Frandi-Coory *author *writer *poet *painter *genealogist

I asked Anne if she’d honour me with an interview, and she said yes!  In this candid interview, Anne is honest and her answers will make you want to reach out and hug her. Enough with my ramblings, and over to Anne…

  1. Why did you write this book in this unique compilation?

For a few years after publishing  Whatever Happened To Ishtar?  in 2010 I felt a deep seated  need  to paint and write poetry incorporating some of the memories and family stories I’d written about.  Writing Ishtar?  helped me to organise  my childhood trauma into some kind of chronological order and gave many of the fractured  memories context and adult understanding.  That’s when  poems  and  brush strokes just flowed from me although I’d never written poetry or painted on a canvas in my life before.  Any  task or project I have embarked upon, be it career, marriage, motherhood, writing or painting, I have done with a passion, I know of no other way. Once a particular  passion grips me,  I let no one, or nothing, stand in my way.

I loved reading  to my children when they were little and later  I read to my grandchildren, whenever I helped out with their care. My grandchildren love to share their vivid imaginings with me so when I had completed the painting and poetry of the painful past,  I was inspired to paint images of my young grandchildren’s imaginative stories,  along with the natural world around us, and to write poetry to enhance them all.

Whenever family came to visit they were keen to see whatever painting I was working on and how it was progressing.  I kept a record of these and the rest of my works in a folder. I had intended to write another book when I realised one day looking through my folder, that I had already written and illustrated another book!  Somehow, all the different poems and stories just seemed to fit when I re-arranged them into a certain order. I felt that everything I’d written and painted summed up my whole life. I could see the pain of the past, and the joy that my grandchildren had brought into my life and how much we loved walking around the lakes near my home, watching wildlife and learning together.

  1. How do the poems and short stories relate to each other?

There are two short stories in the book. One relates to my Lebanese grandparents’ emigration from Lebanon to Australia then on to New Zealand, based on my grandfather Jacob Coory’s diary. I wrote the  other story especially for the book because I wanted to encapsulate all the research I’d done into my Italian family history which highlighted the heartbreaking lives of mothers and daughters, especially that of my great grandmother, Raffaela  Mansi Grego.  Compared to the Italian women in my family tree, my Lebanese grandmother and her daughters had a relatively happier existence. The poems pick up some of the hardships the women suffered, and how it impacted upon following generations. Catholicism featured largely in the lives of both my paternal and maternal families, much of it detrimental and in my view, added greatly to the suffering of the women and their daughters. The societies they lived in were patriarchal and certain cultures and conventions  hadn’t changed for centuries. I believe that when a Christian god was installed as the Almighty One and Only God, and pagan gods and goddesses were relegated to nothing more than Classical Studies, life for females became much darker. In this way, the short stories and many of the poems are a literary reflection  of my maternal Italian and paternal Lebanese heritage.

  1. The first third of your book is dedicated to the wrongs done to others and to Mother Nature. I thought the poem, a homage to Daniel, Zahra and Caylee was particularly moving. How does your own childhood manifest in these poems?

The tragic deaths of Daniel, Zahra and Caylee  were front page world news during the years I was writing  my first  few  poems, and their stories really affected me and stayed with me. I couldn’t get them out of my mind, so I sat down one day and wrote a poem especially for them. The words just poured out, and I dedicated it to all abused children. Only then could I get on with my other writings.  My own childhood was full of fear, loneliness and gross neglect by family and others who should have been caring for me, and I felt deeply the horrors  Zahra  and Caylee  had  endured in their short lives from their own families. Daniel came from a loving family, but his last moments at the hands of the  stranger  who murdered him would have been terrifying.  All because a bus driver decided not to stop and pick him up at the bus stop. Likewise, the cruelty that some humans inflict on animals I find deeply disturbing. Life can be fickle, children and animals so vulnerable.  Humans have the intelligence and power to do so much good on this wonderful planet earth,  but sometimes it seems to me that greed and evil are winning. I fight depression by putting my thoughts down on paper. Sometimes they develop into stories and poetry.

  1. It was evident to me from reading your book and from your artwork, this project was filled with love, heartache and triumphs. What experience are you hoping readers will gain from your book?

I wanted women, especially mothers, to soak in my words, to be able to relate to them and for those of us who were raised within strict Catholic institutions, to know that others share the harm done to us and understand.  I would like readers in general to see the balance in my works…that love and the kindness shown by others can overcome tragedy.

Of course I have also written poems which celebrate the imagination of children and the allure of animals and the natural world.  I hope readers can share the joys I have found in my affinity with animals and children, and the solace that the natural world  can bring to our lives if we can accept that we are a part of nature and that we must live in harmony with it.

  1. How difficult was it confronting your own troubled childhood and that of your familial history, when writing the poems, short stories and painting? Did you learn anything while on this journey?

It was much easier than writing Ishtar?  because then I was confronting a jumble of fractured memories without any context. Each time I discovered new information it was another emotional hit and it left me exhausted, depressed and emotionally troubled. However, painting always leaves me in a state of equilibrium and the poems are already formed, seemingly, in my subconscious, so that I am merely transferring them onto an empty page.

Did I learn anything? If I did, it was that much of the emotional pain that I had carried around with me for most of my life, had largely dissipated.

  1. There is a search for innocence, love of a family and tribute to beloved pets in the latter part of the book. Does this reflect contentment and happiness in your life now or are you still seeking solace and answers to your abusive childhood?

When I was a child incarcerated in various  Catholic institutions, the natural world and animals did not feature in my life at all. Any reference to animals or nature were in abstract, that is, told through the prism of religion: God made everything on earth, Noah saved animals on the Ark during  the great flood and St Francis of Assisi loved animals. Most of  the children’s books we were given to read were illustrated bible stories, the images always of perfect human beings and animals.  We knew nothing at all about the actual world outside. When I was a young mum, we had a menagerie of many different animals;  as my children grew up and learned to cherish animals, so did I.  There is no doubt in my mind that animals taught me so very much about motherhood, life, death and loyalty. For instance, as a child, I was terrified at the thought of death. My nights were filled with nightmares of my own and others’ deaths. Having witnessed many times the death of beloved pets due to old age or accident while bringing up my children, I realised how animals accept death as a part of life. Not for them the maniacal scenes of death and destruction nuns and priests often imposed on us as a warning against sin. At first, I could not believe how peaceful death was when our first pet cat was euthanised after a long and happy life. I expected writhing and meowing in  agony and as the tears streamed down my face I waited in trepidation; instead our beloved feline died quietly in my arms. I had paid for the vet to come to our house so our pet who had never left our gardens could be surrounded by that which he loved.  The vet too had tears in his eyes, witnessing my distress. Not everyone I come into contact with is so gracious about my emotional states or as understanding of my passions.  It has been a long process, but yes, the happiness and contentment reflected in Dragons, Deserts and Dreams, is real. I remain  a bit of a recluse, preferring  to strictly control who comes into my life because I still live with trust issues which prevent me from having a normal social life.

  1. What is your next writing project? Will it be inspired by your family’s history or of your life today?

 I have correspondence from hundreds of readers, and both Lebanese and Italian descendants living around the world  which has the potential to be transcribed into a very powerful book.

I’ll await and see what spirits contrive to move me.

  1. Where can people purchase your book?

 Dragons, Deserts and Dreams can be purchased worldwide from Amazon and other online bookstores or if readers live in Australia or New Zealand they can purchase a signed copy directly from me through my blog here

  1. Where can people connect with you?

I’m always happy to receive comments and correspondence from readers either through comments on my blog or via email at


More information about books written by Luciana Cavallaro Here




Anne blog

Author Anne Frandi-Coory



ishtar-front-cover (200x299)ANNE FRANDI-COORY is interviewed by Erika Liodice  for Beyond The Gray:

12 January 2011

For some, writing is a dream. For others, it’s a way to heal. For Anne Frandi-Coory it’s both. Abandoned by her mother at ten months of age, Anne endured a childhood of abuse and neglect in an orphanage and at the hands of her extended family. Through researching her lost heritage and writing a memoir about her tormented past, she found closure as well as a new career path for the future. Today, I’m thrilled to be talking with Anne about her journey…

Beyond the Gray: Tell us about yourself. What is your dream?

Anne Frandi-Coory: My maiden name is Anne Frandi-Coory. I have four adult children who are all married and have children of their own. I now consider myself to be an author, although I do part-time nannying under “Nanny Jo Services”, which I enjoy and which supplements my small income from sales of my book Whatever Happened To Ishtar? This arrangement allows me the space and time to write my next book.

I was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia five years ago with my partner. I was previously an interior decorator and then moved into the real estate industry in NZ and Australia. My partner and I owned a successful café and catering business in NZ in the late 1980s. I have had many dreams throughout my life.

My current dream is to paint the beautiful red river gum trees that surround me in Melbourne, where I now live. I am just beginning the charcoal sketching phase. I am studying all the different painting techniques and media. I have always been interested in art and have visited many art galleries in Italy and France.

When I decide on a challenge, I usually teach myself. In the past I have taught myself, among other things, the Italian language and how to write a book. The biggest challenge of my life was raising four children because I had no experience of normal family life. I read everything I could on child rearing, which helped give me the confidence that I was doing the right thing.

Self-teaching is a habit I learned as a child because there was never anyone around to guide me. I love reading – for pleasure and guidance on life issues.  All this reading means I understand everything in a strictly literal sense, which isn’t always a good thing when having conversations with other people.

Beyond The Gray: Tell us about a time you found yourself in “the gray”.

Anne: My childhood and adolescence were extremely traumatic and I can truly say I was a “lost” child – neglected, abandoned by my mother and abused by my father’s Lebanese extended family. Loneliness was a steady companion. However, as a critic once said about my memoir, “there were enough people in Anne’s life who cared about her.”

I knew very early on that if I was going to survive into the future I had to find a place for myself in the world. I had to find an identity. I escaped at the age of eighteen into marriage and, although I chose the wrong man for me, the four children we had together helped shape my life for the better and made me a stronger person. They taught me as much about life as I taught them.

Because of the tragedy of my mother’s life, I passionately strived to avoid being a defeated mother. I gained inspiration from the many biographies I read about women who found themselves in similar situations to mine. My disastrous marriage lasted 16 years, mostly because I could not leave my young children. I now see it was also because I did not want to believe my marriage had failed and that I may become a defeated mother too. However, as difficult a decision as it was at the time, when I did leave my life changed for the better. I had matured, was finding out who I was, and knew what I wanted for the future. I met someone who allowed me the space to go out and achieve the things I wanted from life: a university degree, a career and to search for my past. My passionate determination helped me to achieve all three.

My latest dream was to write and publish a book. And in 2010 I achieved that dream.

Beyond The Gray: Tell us about your memoir, Whatever Happened to Ishtar? 

Anne: I began writing Ishtar about five years ago. I spent many years before that tracking the history of my Lebanese and Italian ancestors in a quest to find out why my mother abandoned me and two of my brothers, and why she adopted out another son and daughter.

I had read enough books to know that her life was exceptionally difficult and that she never managed to “move beyond the gray.” I wanted so much to know her and the reasons why she failed so badly at motherhood and life in general. I’d heard many negative comments about her from my father’s family but I never had the chance to know her as a person.

After traveling overseas and around New Zealand interviewing Lebanese and Italian family members, and searching records in local museums and libraries, I was armed with enough information to visit places in Italy and the United Kingdom where members of my extended families once lived. I also managed to collect and record an extensive Lebanese/Italian family tree. After filling many notebooks and collecting countless photographs, I realized I had enough material to write a book. The theme that ran throughout the various family stories was that of defeated mothers. I explored this further and the book grew from being a memoir to several personal stories within a geographical and genealogical framework, beginning with my abandonment and abuse.

Whenever I found writing the book too difficult, I would leave it for many months. Then I would wake at night with inspiration to get up in the early hours and write several chapters. I felt that I needed to write down what was invading my thoughts. I wanted to leave a family history for my descendants so they would grow up understanding what had gone before them, their wonderfully rich heritage and the places that left a mark on their ancestors. I hoped that my book would inspire others to follow their passions, to search for answers – in other words, to go beyond the gray.

The actual writing of the book was an extremely painful experience emotionally. It brought up many childhood memories, but in the end all the information I was able to piece together helped me heal.

Soon after the book was published, it began to sell well online. Part of this success was due to my blog, Lebanese & Italian Connections, where I posted excerpts from Ishtar?.

Many readers from the Lebanese and Italian communities found family connections in the family tree, which appears on my blog and in the book’s appendix.

Beyond The Gray: How can we get our hands on a copy of Whatever Happened to Ishtar?

Anne: My blog contains direct links to  PAYPAL where readers can purchase an autographed copy of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? and to AMAZON BOOKS online

Beyond The Gray: According to Ishtar’s book jacket, you believe that a life with purpose can be lived despite a crippling beginning. What would you tell other people who’ve had a “crippling beginning”?

Anne: Actually, that statement was made by a book reviewer. I can only pass on what I have experienced in life. One of the main lessons I have learned is that it’s not what life throws at you – that cannot be changed – it’s how you deal with the start you’ve been given.

I’ve found that there are many people in the world who have had far greater suffering than I. For me, loving and understanding animals has brought me another level of acceptance. We had a menagerie when our children were growing up and animals have taught me so much about life and death. They have no control over who cares for them and have to accept their fate. Caring for animals has made me a calmer person in the process.

Finally, I refused to be a victim. In hindsight, I can see that it’s not always a good personal philosophy because I haven’t in the past allowed friends and work colleagues to get close enough to help me through the bad times. They rarely got to see the real me. I internalized all the negativity and emotional pain and tried to deal with them on my own. I became extremely efficient at work and running a household, while fighting at all costs not to become a victim. All this takes enormous amounts of energy and it distanced me from those around me. Thankfully, my children and grandchildren have made my life so full, and the older I get the calmer I become.  My advice is to trust others and accept their help.

Beyond The Gray: What fears have you faced as you chase your dreams? How do you overcome them?

Anne: My biggest fear is that of the unknown. I read all I can about other people’s experiences of pursuing their dreams and this helps. Biographies of my favourite writers, artists, mothers and mentors have always inspired me. I have never been one to listen to negative comments about my dreams. I keep my own counsel and have a strong sense of self belief. I value my solitude and strictly control who I let into my life and my personal space. I think this comes from always having had to do things on my own. I have always had this incredible insight into things, like seeing well ahead that something wasn’t right and that I needed to make changes. I am not sure where this gift comes from, but I believe it is a gift. In other words, believe in yourself and trust your intuition. There were many times in the past when I didn’t trust my judgement but I learned quickly from my mistakes.

Beyond The Gray:  What are your hopes for the future?

Anne: To publish a book of my paintings, short stories and poems

Beyond The Gray: If you could give one piece of advice to someone else who is struggling to move beyond the gray and follow a dream, what would it be?

Anne: Find something that you are passionate about – something that almost consumes you – and a lot of negativity in your life will dissipate because you don’t have any mental energy left to dwell on it. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, you will be distracted by other issues in your life. And when one passion cools, find another.

In my case, my first dream was to have children of my own – to be a good mother. Then I searched for my lost Italian family. I wouldn’t let anything stand in my way and I’m sure it drove everyone around me to distraction because it was a fifteen year physical and mental journey. Even though not everything I discovered about my extended family was encouraging, the fact remained that I was searching and, in the process, learning a lot about myself. As a result, the micro picture of my childhood that I carried around in my head was replaced by a macro view. And it took the focus off me.

Once I had completed my search, I changed tack and that dream was replaced by another: to write a book. Each new photograph, each new person I found, each new bit of information, re-energized me. I still experienced depression and days of tears and frustration, but I tended to get over them more quickly than I had in the past. I still preferred to hide away from people most of the time, but when I felt like company and facing people, I was so much more confident.


-Erika Liodice is the founder of the award-winning motivational blog, Beyond the Gray, where she shares her journey to publication while encouraging readers to reach for their own dreams. She is a contributor to literary and travel sites, including Writer Unboxed, The Savvy Explorer, and Lehigh Valley InSite. She received a B.S. in Business and Economics from Lehigh University and studied fiction writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Erika lives in Emmaus, Pennsylvania with her husband.


-Erika Liodice 12 January 2011 Dream Chaser


Erika Liodice

Anne blog

Introduction to Anne Frandi-Coory

It was my pleasure to interview Anne Frandi-Coory. She is the Australian author of the moving memoir: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?

ishtar-front-cover (200x299)

The memoir is about Anne’s quest for coming to terms with her traumatic childhood when she lived in a Catholic orphanage and later in her father’s family household. This is also a fascinating journey of Anne’s Italian and Lebanese heritages which provide insight into generations of defeated mothers.

I was first intrigued with the title because Ishtar is a goddess revered for many qualities in ancient civilizations. This book touched my heart as it addressed universal issues that impact women today.

Read my review of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? (5 of 5 stars) on APOLLO’S RAVEN:

Interview with Anne Frandi-Coory  

7 May 2016

What was the defining moment that inspired you to write your memoir?


There was no defining moment as such; more a series of events over a long period of time. The continued feedback from my extended Lebanese family that I was ‘backward’ – a label I overheard often throughout my childhood had always left me feeling devastated and depressed. I desperately wanted people to know that I was intelligent, that childhood emotional and psychological trauma didn’t equate to ‘backward’. I tried many times, as a young mother, to communicate with my Lebanese family, but I could barely utter a word, while they continually talked down to me.

On another level, I found it difficult to talk about my childhood, and as a result my children didn’t know anything about my life, or that of my parents. I wanted them to be proud of me. I felt I didn’t have a past, a family history, and I wanted them to have one.

What was the inspiration for the title of your unique book title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?


I was brought up as a strict Catholic as were most of my Lebanese and Italian relatives and ancestors. I discovered during my research that the women in my family tree suffered terribly at the hands of their men and the Church…too many children, too much abuse and the constant praying that in reality achieved nothing. My extensive reading about ancient goddesses like Ishtar informed me that women were once worshipped for their fertility, but weren’t solely defined by it. Ishtar occupied the highest position in the Babylonian pantheon; she was the favourite goddess of the Babylonians. She was the goddess of fertility, justice, healing and war. However, once the three patriarchal religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity rampaged across humanity that changed forever. Christian women were then expected to emulate Immaculate Mary, mother of God, an impossible task. In the Catholic system, females had two vocational choices; become a mother (married of course) or a nun! Disastrously, my mother became both.


Sculpting Ishtar for the book cover (Artist: Bruce McKenzie)

Was there any aspect of your Catholic upbringing that still deeply impacts you today?


Yes. Fear and hypocrisy. I was so terrorised by stories of the devil and the tortures of hell all through my childhood while incarcerated in Catholic institutions, that most nights I experienced the most horrific nightmares that left me with a racing heart that seemed to shake my whole body. I sometimes imagined I could see the devil watching me in a corner of the room, so my reaction was to hide under my blankets praying that God would save me. The adrenaline rush prevented me from sleeping. I am still afraid of the dark, and although I no longer believe in the devil or hell, I suffer severe panic attacks if my fragile feelings of security and well-being are undermined in any way. Deep down, I have this feeling that at any time, everything I have will be taken from me, including my family.

The belief that anyone who was a good practicing Catholic was automatically a virtual saint, came crashing down around me when I discovered, as a teenager, that they were human like everyone else and just as capable of committing ‘sins’! I remember being utterly devastated but from that moment, slowly over time, my belief in God fizzled out and died. I am now an atheist.

What would you consider some of your most enlightening moments in your research that helped you come to terms with your childhood?


I was explaining to a psychologist that I believed I had paid for my mother’s sins. He was silent for a few moments, and then said: “That’s a very interesting choice of words”. We talked about why I believed my mother had sinned. After a couple more sessions, he said to me “Do you think it possible that your Catholic upbringing may have done more harm than the abuse you suffered at the hands of your family?”

All through my research, I kept thinking about the psychologist’s words, and as a result, I wrote a very different book.

I had come to realise that my mother wasn’t a sinner, and that the story of my childhood was merely a tiny inset in a very large picture. That’s why, although I began writing my memoir, I ended up writing an extensive family history spanning generations and countries. That in general, life favoured males over females. With the change in perspective also came acceptance of my traumatic childhood.

Was there a woman in your ancestral history who most sparked your interest and why?


Probably Italia Frandi, my great aunt. She died long before I was born, but I was given a recorded interview with her daughter, in which she talks about Italia’s life and achievements. Italia suffered many tragedies in her life but she never let that prevent her from becoming an astute business woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the Catholic Church or a legal system that favoured men.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give young women today?


Three pieces of advice:

Feel the fear, and do it anyway. I know that’s a well-worn cliché, but I know it’s the best way to combat fear. I would still be hiding behind locked doors if I hadn’t ignored my fears and taken the plunge into unknown waters. It made me more courageous each time I achieved a goal.

If people make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, move on. Listen to what your senses are telling you. Life is too short and there is so much you can achieve in your lifetime if you travel without negativity weighing you down. I believe this philosophy has kept me physically safe and mentally healthy. 

Always strive to be financially independent…It will empower you to be in control of your life.

Do you plan to write any further books based on the research you’ve done on your Lebanese and Italian heritages?

No, but I have written a series of poems, short stories in themselves, about aspects of my childhood, cultural and family history. I have painted an image for each poem, or attached a photograph. I have also written a few ancestral short stories. I am planning to publish these in a book sometime within the next year, once I complete the series.

Biography Anne Frandi-Coory

Anne Frandi-Coory was abandoned by her Italian mother when she was ten months old and placed in the care of the Catholic Sisters of Mercy in Dunedin, by her Lebanese father. All through her childhood, Anne’s Lebanese extended family, and her strict Catholic upbringing, influenced her to believe that her life of abuse and gross neglect was  because she was “paying for my mother’s sins”. Anne married very young and had four children. After they had left home, Anne decided to research her family history  to try and understand the reasons why there were so many defeated mothers in her family tree. Over a period of fifteen years, she traveled across the globe, sourced original documents and interviewed many  family members, both Lebanese and Italian. Most of the  women were devout Catholics, forced to marry brutal and uneducated men and subsequently gave birth to too many children. Seemingly, the women’s sole reason for living was to breed, pray to God for help, attend Mass regularly, and hope that the after- life would reward them for their ‘goodness’. Catholic girls had one other choice for a vocation and that was to become a nun. This had not always been females’ lot in life. Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility, love and war, empowered females to emulate her prowess for thousands of years. But patriarchal Christianity usurped Ishtar with its Virgin Mary, and females were stigmatised as whore or venerated as virgin/mother.

Anne Frandi-Coory now lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner. She works from her home studio as a painter, poet and short story writer. She intends to publish a book of her works.

Linnea Tanner

-Linnea Tanner  Writer, Blogger, Author  USA 

More about Linnea Tanner here:


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