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Author Anne Frandi-Coory

 

In 2010 I wrote a book ‘Whatever Happened to Ishtar?’ – A memoir and family history told in two books entitled  ‘Italian Connections’  ‘Lebanese Connections’ … My Catholic childhood filled with fear, abuse, and gross neglect.

“Give me a child for seven years and I will give you the [woman]”

Anne in convent clothes

Anne Frandi-Coory at 8 years of age – just removed from Mercy Orphanage for the Poor in Dunedin

 

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The theme running through the book relates to my passionate quest to find answers for generations of defeated mothers on both sides of my family tree. It’s about the brutal men in their lives, the endless pregnancies, and the women’s strict adherence to CathoIicism. In the end, the patriarchal Catholic Church betrayed their trust. Would Ishtar the Babylonian goddess have been a better role model and protector of female rights than the Virgin Mary turned out to be?

I know that in my mother’s case, if she had sought help from professionals rather than endlessly praying to her imaginary god, her life would have been far different.

I now live in Melbourne with my partner, Paul.

 

TEN *****  Book Reviews for  …

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? – A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations of Defeated Mothers

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This review originally posted here on AMAZON BOOKS 28 March 2017

New Zealand’s Elena Ferrante?…

I don’t write many book reviews, I don’t usually have the time,  but I felt compelled to write this one. I’ve read both of Anne Frandi-Coory’s books; her memoir Whatever Happened To Ishtar? (2010) and her latest publication Dragons, Deserts and Dreams (2016) and it seems to me both are the kinds of books that you keep in order to read again and again. I also follow her book reviews on Facebook closely because she reads the genres I enjoy and she writes great, honest  book reviews.

The honesty with which Anne Frandi-Coory has written her memoir makes me think of her as New Zealand’s Elena Ferrante. The author is a virtual recluse who writes about her childhood living in Catholic institutions and whose existence is violently shaken up periodically when she is taken by her father into his Lebanese immigrant family’s household not far from the institutions she has lived in for most of her formative years. There she endures what she calls the hypocrisy and brutality the women of the household direct toward her and her absent Italian mother who has long since been banished from the home of her in-laws.  The reasons are complex and include the sexual harassment of the author’s mother, an innocent ex Catholic nun. Frandi-Coory’s story is set in a slightly later era than Ferrante’s and dolls eerily feature in her childhood as well. I felt the need to check Frandi-Coory’s book reviews to ascertain whether she had been influenced at all by the Italian author in any way.  Yes, she had reviewed the Neapolitan Quartet Novels by Ferrante, but she had only read and reviewed those books in 2016 six years after she wrote her memoir.  I am amazed at the similarities in writing style as well as in the content and minutiae of the lives of mothers and daughters, even allowing for the authors living on opposite ends of the world. I suppose at the end of the day, women’s lot is universal.

Frandi-Coory embarks on years of research into the lives of her mother and Italian extended family which she was never permitted to have contact with even though the Coory family didn’t want her living with them after her father’s marriage to her mother broke down when she was an infant. She finds that many women in both the Lebanese and Italian extended families lived in patriarchal cultures reinforced by devotion to the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. Too many children, brutal husbands and a blind faith in a god who never seemed to answer any of their prayers.

I wonder if these families had not left their home countries to settle in such a raw and young country as New Zealand would their lives ever have come under such scrutiny?  As another reviewer of Frandi-Coory’s memoir stated, this is a mammoth book and well worth reading. I also recommend the author’s latest book which, although it contains short stories and poems as well as some of her artworks, cleverly connects the reader to many of the topics she writes about in her memoir.

-Zita Barna, Australia.  28 March 2017

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Hi Anne, I expect you are thinking what on earth I am on about when I said I would e mail you.

Rita Roberts 2

Rita Roberts-Archaeologist

Well, I watched a film called  ‘Not Without My Daughter’.  For some reason it made me think about your book  ‘Whatever Happened to Ishtar?’  documenting your traumatic childhood and I had to begin reading it again, because this film helped me understand my confusion with regard to your extended family. I honestly don’t know how you coped with all that hassle You were so brave and I admire you tremendously. I am also so pleased you have Paul and your lovely children making your life now happy. If you haven’t already seen this film you can see it on U tube, and it is a true story. Take care, Rita Roberts (Crete)

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*Anne Frandi-Coory’s reply to Rita Roberts  30 November 2016:

Dear Rita

I finally located a copy of the dvd ‘Not Without My Daughter’ (1990) starring Sally Field. Thank you for recommending it to me. I can see why the Iranian family in the movie reminded you of my immigrant Lebanese family that I wrote about in my memoir ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ and why it gave you a better insight into what my childhood, and my mother’s life,  must have been like.

The movie brought so much of my childhood flooding back to me. First of all, the women wearing black burqas evoked images of the nuns in the Catholic Mercy orphanage where I spent my infancy and early childhood. I always get a strong visceral reaction whenever I see women dressed like this, or nuns in black habits, and not because the Mercy nuns were especially cruel; in fact the sister who ran the orphanage nursery was very kind to me. But because I was traumatised by being abandoned at the nursery by my mother, I always feel the same distress all these years later.

The hateful looks directed at the American mother, by the Iranian women in the movie also reminded me of my aunts. My paternal Lebanese family, (grandparents and their 11 children),  all lived, and later,  often visited,  in the same three storey house, so that whenever my father took me to visit his family, I not only had one or two adults abusing or yelling and screaming at me, there were several, all at once. My father rarely intervened, and he was born in that Dunedin house, living there most of his life along with his brother and unmarried sister.  A couple of times I sat on my father’s knee when I was a little girl, and the look my aunts gave me frightened me so much, I never hugged him, or sat on my his knee ever again! They didn’t like me or my Italian mother, and I can only imagine what it was like for her, living with them all. Of course, you will remember that my mother’s severe bipolar disorder took hold while she lived with her in-laws, after she married my father. The family screamed abuse at me often, and reminded me every other day that my mother was a ‘sharmuta’ (prostitute) because she had an illegitimate son, and her Italian culture was also demonised. The family’s racism was something I remember vividly.

My aunts often attacked me in the streets of Dunedin if they thought my clothing was in any way ‘revealing’; once when I was a teenager, two of my aunts attacked me because I was wearing a dress with a skirt that fell below my knees, had a high neckline, but the long sleeves were made of a see-through flimsy fabric. They were so enraged they almost ripped the sleeves off my arms. In the end, I was afraid to walk down the street in case I met them and all I could think of was moving to another New Zealand city to escape them, which I eventually did.

While my father’s family weren’t Muslim like the family in the movie, they brought their very strict Catholic Maronite religion and culture with them. They went to church every Sunday and often during the week. My grandmother, Eva Arida, had an altar in her bedroom dedicated to the Virgin Mary with a lighted candle 24/7. She prayed constantly from a little Aramaic prayer book and was habitually fingering rosary beads. My grandfather, Jacob Fahkrey, of devout priestly lineage, prayed aloud early every morning while walking around the rear yard of the family home. I can honestly say that it was the women of the family who were the most physically and verbally brutal.

I did a bit more research into the true story behind the movie and book Not Without My Daughter, and that was also very interesting. The little American girl who so loved her Iranian father when they lived in the USA, had such a traumatic experience living with her father’s family in Iran, that she refused to ever see him again after she and her mother barely managed to escape to the States. Her father eventually travelled to Finland, a neutral country, with a documentary team hoping to film a reunion with his adult daughter, but she declined.   

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Another 5***** Book Review by Linnea Tanner…

Whatever Happened To Ishtar?  by Anne Frandi-Coory is a well-written and haunting memoir of a woman who finds herself by exploring her family’s heritage that contributed to her growing up without the love and nurture of a mother she most desperately wanted. What first attracted me to this book was the title, Whatever Happened To Ishtar?. She is the Ancient Sumerian Mother Goddess who celebrates love, fertility, and sexuality. This title haunted me as I read the memoir because Anne’s mother, like many woman of her generation and previous generations, was harshly judged for her sexuality and had limited options to treat her mental illness and to fulfill her potential. The first part of the memoir is Anne’s account of her childhood while the second part provides a historical account of her Lebanese (father’s side) and Italian heritage (mother’s side).

Anne was institutionalized at the Mercy Orphanage of the Poor at South Dunedin in her early childhood. At the time, her father could not adequately care for Anne after he divorced her mother for infidelity. At the age of eight, Anne was removed from the orphanage and introduced to the real world under the care of her father’s family. However, they shamed Anne and associated her with her mentally ill mother they considered a whore. This part of the memoir is gut-wrenching and haunting because Anne had to overcome loneliness and self-doubt to find her full potential after marrying, having four children, and finding her life partner after a divorce.

However, what is most fascinating is the rich heritage and ancestral genealogy of both her father and mother to understand what nineteenth century immigrants to Australia faced. With no access to birth control, women faced multiple pregnancies or secretly resorted to self-induced abortions with crude knitting needles. The historical accounts that Anne researched help explain why her father and her mother were compelled to make their choices. I recommend this memoir because the story will stay in your memory as it covers universal issues of female sexuality, women’s roles and options, mental illness, and society’s harsh judgment that has defeated mothers for generations.

-Linnea Tanner 25 April 2016

Linnea Tanner

Linnea Tanner

-More about Linnea Tanner here: http://www.linneatanner.com/blog/

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Book Review by FLAXROOTS  14 July 2015

Whatever Happened To Ishtar?  by author Anne Frandi-Coory

Anne.

Anne Frandi-Coory –  7 years old

This book is a memoir of the life of Anne Frandi-Coory the daughter of an Italian mother and a Lebanese father.

Having spent a childhood, peppered with abuse and harassment, between a Dunedin orphanage for the poor and her father’s Lebanese family Anne was regarded as a backward child. She describes the panic she felt as a toddler as her father departed after one of his visits, and goes on to relate episodes from her strict upbringing in the orphanage where she was segregated from her two brothers once the boys turned five years old. Memory of the order of happenings in her early life is sketchy and this is aptly conveyed in her narrative.

She was not well received by her father’s family though she lived with her father at his family’s house intermittently, but never feeling at ease there and alleging various kinds of abuse.
Married in her teens Anne gave birth to four children and devoted herself to nurturing them during which time her marriage failed and she struggled to avoid a mental breakdown.

Later in life Anne devoted herself to researching the Lebanese history of her father’s family and the Italian forebears on her mother’s side, hoping to understand her relationship with her Italian mother who was shunned by Anne’s father’s family and who couldn’t look after her children except for very short periods.
The account of the arrival of the Frandi family as assisted immigrants to New Zealand in 1876, as opposed to those arriving in a self funding capacity, makes interesting reading.
The poems and quotations at the beginning of each chapter have obviously been chosen with care and sensitivity and give an added dimension to the book. The same can be said for the inclusion of family photographs mostly lent by other family members. There is a certain poignancy here as Anne had few, if any, family photos while she was growing up; thus emphasising what she refers to as ‘her paper-thin sense of identity’
There is a freshness about the author’s style and she succeeds in conveying emotion about the lack of emotion and caring shown to her in her formative years.

Having, as a child, lived in fear of dire consequences if she didn’t follow strict rules and try to emulate the saints she may have developed the discipline to achieve a good education which, no doubt, helped in her later endeavours to track her forebears and learn the history of their migration to New Zealand.
The bibliography includes useful references and illuminates the paths she travelled.

With regard to the publication the title is apt and the cover is eye-catching. The paper edition is perfect bound but the biggest drawback is the lack of an adequate gutter making the book difficult to hold open for any length of time. There are three very minor identical grammatical inconsistencies plus an odd discrepancy about two rivers.

The author is to be congratulated on her enterprise in producing a valuable resource for her family and an interesting and instructive read for the rest of us.

It seems Ishtar has risen from the ashes!

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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? by Anne Frandi-Coory – Book Review by Pauline Csuba published in issue no. 387 The Australian Writer March 2015

Anne Marie Coory 1958

Anne Frandi-Coory – 10 years old

Haunted by her mother’s restless spirit filtering through every thought and dream, this book was written not only for the appeasement of her mother but for her children and grandchildren.  Anne Frandi-Coory has embarked on a journey of genealogy taking on a rich history, research, and unpleasant memories.

Distressed at the hands of her Lebanese father’s extended family and The Mercy orphanage for the poor – this story of lost generations, abandonment, abuse and gross neglect by those who should have known better – is a story of a personal account and the connection with the Catholic Church and its institutions. Brutality, emotional deprivation and lack of nurturing all culminated in a dark side of two families unable to communicate with one another. With the history of these Lebanese and Italian families and how they settled in New Zealand, this makes for an interesting read.

It is a mammoth book and I felt by removing some areas of repetitions may have freed the flow of emotion that could allow the reader to connect much sooner with the powerful experience being shared. I congratulate Anne for taking on this traumatic journey of her past and the long process of research, writing and editing of her work. It is wonderful to see she now has a loving partner and family who have supported her in this passionate quest. I recommend this book to those who are or have embarked on a similar journey.

-Pauline Csuba

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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? by Anne Frandi-Coory – 5 star

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1165480328

When I started reading this book, I expected to finish it quite quick but in truth, it took time to digest the words and their significance. It is a journey, both biographical and autobiographical in approach. The author seeks to find her place not only in society but who she is. This is an extraordinary search which uncovers the history of her maternal and paternal lineage.

What is revealed is both heart-rending and powerful, a personal narrative. Ms. Frandi-Coory’s pursuit as to why her mother abandoned her while a baby is a difficult journey of self-discovery. How could a mother leave her children is the driving question behind the author’s plight. That, and trying to understand who she is and to identify with the family nexus and her place within it.

Her father, ill equipped mentally and economically to rear his daughter and son, placed them in an orphanage run by catholic nuns. It was not a pleasant time for either and the author gives vivid descriptions of her time incarcerated. Her father’s family weren’t the most pleasant people, abusive both verbally and physically. Why? Her mother was considered a harlot and mentally unstable, therefore she was of the same ilk. The cultural mix of Italian and Lebanese blood, the author is driven to learn more about both sides of the family and why they behaved in such a contrary manner.

I admire Ms. Frandi-Coory for writing this book. She revealed secrets most families would prefer to remain hidden to detriment of those who were and are victims. This is a brave expository, which shows the cycles of abuse can be stopped with determination and strength of character.

-Luciana Cavallaro 11 January 2015

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Luciana Cavallaro

More About Luciana Cavallaro here: https://www.amazon.com/Luciana-Cavallaro/e/B009QHIKN2

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Gerald Gentz

Gerald Gentz

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? by Anne Frandi-Coory – AMAZON BOOK REVIEW by Gerald Gentz USA 30 December 2014   

http://www.amazon.com/Anne-Frandi-Coory/e/B00MN03HQY

‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ is more than a book and more than a story. It is the telling of a remarkable journey of discovery of one person’s difficult life. Anne Frandi-Coory spent much of her life trying to find a place and the love of a family. Book ended between a caring but weak father and mentally ill mother unable to care for her financially or emotionally, Anne and her brother, Kevin, suffered childhoods that no child deserves to experience. In the end, even the scars would not prevent them from making stable and successful lives.

Anne’s long research into both the paternal and maternal sides of her family is remarkable for it’s depth and acceptance. In doing so, she exposed her demons and the dysfunctions of her maternal and paternal families. The result is a culmination of her difficult journey to understand herself. Her greatest victory is her coming to understand the love of her mother and the realization of her love for her mother. Anne’s was a journey of discovery and healing.

This can be a difficult book to read at times because of the emotions it elicits. It was particularly emotional for me because of my realization that Anne is actually my cousin that I was not aware I had, her mother being my mother’s older sister. Anne’s book gave me a deeper awareness of my maternal family, and thus my mother, than I had before. So Anne Frandi-Coory’s journey of discovery was also mine in 373 pages.

Gerald Gentz

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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? by Anne Frandi-Coory – 5 star *****GOODREADS BOOK REVIEW by Susan Tarr 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11168865-whatever-happened-to-ishtar

“WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? By Anne Frandi-Coory is a remarkable portrayal of New Zealand’s earlier Lebanese and Italian Catholic families. Although I was raised in the various vicinities this book covers, I had no idea there were established Lebanese families in New Zealand. And, for me, the whole Catholic religion was shrouded in mystique, so I had very little understanding of what was involved in being a part of the Catholic faith.

Set in New Zealand, the spartan buildings of the Catholic St Vincent’s orphanage mirrored in some part those of Seacliff Mental Asylum (Otago, NZ) in both outlook and care of those in their charge. Both would seem to have lacked a close affection for those who needed it most: the vulnerable and unloved.

This work is an amazing testimony for all mothers, a testimony we can probably all relate to. How many times do we feel inadequate, or feel we could have done better? We should never have such constraints placed on us as a mother to feel either of these. Whatever a mother is capable of at that time, for her child, is sufficient for that time.

As Frandi-Coory bears out, it is always possible to break mindsets, or break the mould, as it is said. I.e. the sins of the father… All it takes is an invincible will, which clearly she had and has.

Frandi-Coory recounts the histories of both her Lebanese and Italian families. She explains how the various mindsets occurred and how they were passed down through the generations.

I found I kept referring to the photographs as I formed opinions on the various players in this tapestry of life.

What is astonishing here, is that Anne Frandi-Coory and I never made a connection until after our respective books were published, in separate countries. It was through reading each others work that we realised our lives were very closely linked. In fact we may well have known each other through a mutual friend (Italian) during our college years in Dunedin, NZ. That is why I can vouch for the events, scenery, time frames and cultures in this amazing work.

It’s absolutely raw in its honesty.

Very well written, it’s a compelling read, from start to finish.

Kudos to Anne Frandi-Coory.

-Susan Tarr 14 October 2014

Susan Tarr

Susan Tarr

More about Susan Tarr here:http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Tarr/e/B00I0I3M9U

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MOMO Photo ABC ‘Let’s Read’…

 I am a member of a photo group where we get a prompt for every day and have to take an appropriate picture. Because we had the alphabet one month, I decided to do a book theme. I always added either the link to my blog or to the books. I have decided to post a picture every week so my booky friends can enjoy them, as well.
A is for … Autobiography.  Two biographies by some very strong women:

Anne Frandi-Coory  Whatever Happened To Ishtar? 
Immaculée Ilibagiza  Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
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Momo 2014

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‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ is

“An amazing journey – challenging, painful, and ultimately unforgettable”  – Tanith Jane McNabb, Owner of Tan’s Bookshop Marlborough NZ, 27 October 2014 on

Whatever Happened To Ishtar?‘ Anne Frandi-Coory Author’s  facebook page: 

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See here *MORE reviews for ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?‘ and where to buy this book

**Please VISIT and LIKE Anne Frandi-Coory Author Facebook Page** 

Excerpt from ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?; A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’ 

The following two letters were written by Anne Albert to her niece, Anne Frandi-Coory, following the death of her mother, Doreen Marie Frandi.  Anne Albert died shortly after writing the second of the letters to her niece, but if she had not met her niece at Doreen’s funeral. the two would not have known each other and there is so much about Doreen’s life that her daughter would never have discovered.

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***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photograph can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

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Doreen Maria Betty Anne

Doreen, Maria (mother of the other 3 women) Betty Gentz, Anne Albert

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To my niece, Anne Frandi-Coory [1995 & 1996]

Dear Anne

I just wanted to tell you how much it has meant to me to meet you at this time. It has taken some of the bitterness out of your mother’s death, for me.

Knowing you, I now realise that her life was not all tragedy, for if she was responsible for giving life to someone as warm & caring, & beautiful as you are, it was instead, a triumph.

I intend to type the story of her life as I know it, and will send it to you.

Your mother was a gentle woman. The mental illness took away the potential she had, to be all that she was capable of being. That was the tragedy of her life.

Try to think of her each day for a minute or two; of her life, and your love for her. That way I am sure her spirit will begin to live with you.

Many loving thoughts, Auntie Anne.

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As promised, Anne, here is your mother’s story:

Doreen was such a beautiful child that on the ship which brought her, her brother and parents to New Zealand, a genuine childless couple offered her parents money to allow them to adopt her.  Doreen had a cloud of bright red curls that framed her pretty face.  How different Doreen’s life would have been had the adoption gone ahead.  Life within the Alfredo Frandi family was an uneasy one, so inclined was he to uncontrollable bouts of violent rage, during which he would throw furniture around the room and punch holes in doors.  Often it was his wife, Maria, a pale and nervous woman,  who felt the force of his fists.  Maria was in a perpetual state of acute anxiety and her concern about their lack of money exacerbated this state.  Alfredo was a labourer and work was hard to come by.  They had four children they could barely feed and clothe so any subsequent  pregnancies were aborted  with a knitting needle.  Unfortunately, as the oldest daughter, Doreen was needed to assist with the cleaning up after these procedures.  Maria had no conception of the trauma this was causing her daughter, and which was to haunt Doreen for the rest of her life.

When Doreen was sixteen years old, I was born, but I have never quite known why I was not aborted.  I can only suppose that my mother may have been experiencing symptoms of the menopause and may have been unaware of the pregnancy in  time.  So unexpected was my birth, that an apple crate was all that my parents had to lay me in.  Doreen was thrilled about the new baby and set about lining the crate with material and making it look pretty for me.  This was the beginning of Doreen’s devotion to me which was to last all her life.

Doreen was a very gentle girl and she was a help to her mother in caring for  the younger children, but she loathed house work of any kind.  She was adept at shopping for bargains and was a very good sewer.  Catholicism began to influence her life early on, as it brought her a peace and beauty so missing from her home environment.  Significantly, the nuns at the convent school she attended, recognized her potential for a vocation and one nun, Sister Anne, encouraged Doreen all she could to think about entering the convent.  As Doreen approached womanhood she exhibited no interest in boys or other worldly things, so firmly were her sights set of becoming a Catholic nun.  Alfredo was dead against his eldest daughter becoming a nun and turned the house upside down to show how much he detested the very idea.  This turmoil only made her more determined, and after a short time working in a department store and following her debut at the annual charity ball, for which she made her own stunning gown,  Doreen entered the convent.

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Doreen's debut

Doreen’s Debut in the dress she made herself

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Initially Doreen loved her life as a nun, but after almost a year of doing nothing but housework, she asked if she could train as a nurse.  Her wish was to care for severely handicapped children.  However, her request was greeted with profound disapproval because to actually ask to be able to do what one wanted, was against the very  strict rules of the convent  as well as a denial of the vow of absolute obedience.  Doreen was severely reprimanded and as a result sunk into a deep depression.  The nuns could not understand Doreen’s depression;  they believed that if you had a true vocation faith was enough to protect you from such things.  They then put pressure on Doreen constantly questioning her commitment to her vocation.  Doreen became hysterical which appalled the nuns, and they subsequently demanded that her mother remove her from the convent.  They could not know that bi polar disorder was manifesting itself in Doreen and would consequently ruin her life.

Doreen recovered very slowly from her first breakdown but she was devastated that her vocation was at an end and that she had broken her vow to God.  Doreen did  finally find acceptance and there followed a succession of jobs, which began a pattern set for the rest of her life;  employment interspersed with breakdowns.  In the 1940’s not much was known about bi polar disorder nor were there any satisfactory drugs available at the time.  Doreen was then subjected to countless ECT treatments without anaesthetic which really amounted to torture.  Around this time Doreen’s Aunt Italia, Alfredo’s only sister who was then 70 years of age, decided to take more of an interest in her niece. Italia  regaled Doreen with stories of the privileged   life the Frandi family lived in Italy before they arrived in New Zealand [Italia was born in Pisa, Italy in 1869]. Aristodemo, Italia’s father, had to flee Italy because he was a political agitator alongside Garibaldi, and Italia showed Doreen the fine silver and linen they had brought over with them.  Italia also dazzled Doreen with stories about the family riding in a grand carriage and people bowed with respect for them. Whenever  Doreen  was in the manic phase of her illness, she had illusions of grandeur, and would repeat all that her aunt had told her about their previous  life in Italy.  In these early stages of her illness, Doreen would spend money she did not have and would charge up accounts to her Aunt Italia and sometimes even stay in expensive hotels, all charged against her aunt’s name.  Following these episodes Doreen would then sink into the depths of depression. 

Shortly before the end of the war Doreen joined the Air Force.  It was while she was in  the Force that Doreen met the father of her first child, Kevin. Phillip Coory  neglected  to mention that he was already married with a young  son, Vas, until Doreen informed him  that she was pregnant.  Phillip Coory  believed at the time that that was the end of the matter and he had rid himself of her, but then his brother Joseph came on the scene.  Joseph was a kind and simple man, who did his best to make Doreen happy.  Sadly, his family conspired  against Doreen from the outset; perhaps they did not approve of her good looks or the way the marriage came about.  The marriage ended in disaster;  Joseph was not her intellectual equal and her illness would have been extremely difficult to live with. About three years after their marriage Anne was born and eighteen months later, came Anthony.  Following a severe bout of  bi polar disorder, the children were taken from her and placed in an Orphanage for the Poor in South Dunedin.

The permanent loss of  her children caused Doreen great anguish from which she never really recovered.  In later years she had contact with her daughter Anne, but Doreen was never able to accept that the child did not blame her mother for her abandonment.  Years later, her youngest son, Anthony moved to Wellington to live, but that feeling of guilt never left her and obviously prevented her from having an emotional relationship with her son, although he did make a futile attempt at it.  Doreen and Kevin lived a life of great hardship and near poverty, with Doreen frequently suffering nervous breakdowns, which culminated in her being  admitted to Porirua Psychiatric Hospital.  Kevin had to learn to deal with his mother’s extreme mood swings from a very early age which made his young life intolerable at times.  I have no idea how she coped during those years but I am sure that sometimes  she must have prayed for death, yet through it all her faith in God  never wavered and carried her through until the day she died.

At the peak of her loneliness, Doreen met a man, Edward Stringer, and spent a night with him.  Of course, given her luck, or lack thereof, it ended in pregnancy.  During the weeks after the birth of her daughter, Florence, and suffering from depression, Doreen signed adoption papers for her daughter.  Sometime later, Edward and Doreen met up again, and with the sole intention of getting her daughter back, she married Edward.  Heartbreakingly for Doreen, it was much too late; the adoption was quite legal and binding. Once again life had defeated Doreen and during a severe bout of mania, Edward left, unable to cope with his new wife’s disorder.  From this, there followed a period of dreariness, when Doreen and Kevin lived in a state house at 56 Hewer Crescent Naenae, Lower Hutt in Wellington, and she obtained a reasonably stable job in a factory close by.  At least the disorder left Doreen in peace for an extended period, in which Doreen developed a love of cats, and she had up to six at one time or another.

Kevin started up a very successful restaurant, Bacchus, in Courtney Place in Wellington.  Doreen was employed by Kevin in the kitchen of the restaurant, and she appeared to enjoy her time there.  Sadly her mother died on 10 March 1980, which caused Doreen to have another nervous breakdown.  Following her recovery, Doreen retired from work and moved into a council flat in Daniell Street, Newtown in Wellington.  During this time, she appeared to me to be doing no more than going through the motions of living.  My heart ached to see her like that, with no apparent interest in anything.  Kevin’s bankruptcy and his consequent  permanent move to Sydney, took the utmost toll on her spiritual well being.  Doreen then lapsed into a serious bout of her  disorder, suffering yet another complete nervous breakdown, and she was admitted once again to Porirua Hospital for a considerable time.

I have no doubt whatsoever, that it was not only Doreen’s manic depressive illness that had such a destructive effect on her life.  I sincerely believe that she carried guilt feelings from her experiences as a young girl,  witnessing  her mother’s self inflicted abortions, made worse by Doreen’s Catholic beliefs.       I realized this to be true, with great clarity, when I visited her at the hospital during her final stay there in 1995. She led me out into the hospital gardens, and pointed to a bed of purple pansies in bloom.  “There you see” she told me with infinite sadness, “there are all the little babies”

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Read more here:My Mother Was A Catholic Nun 

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Doreen’s Children….

Kevin

Kevin Coory

Anne and Anthony at first Santa photo session

Anne and Anthony Coory

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Florence – adopted out (now Hudayani Gleeson)

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Vincent aka Bruce 2

Vincent – adopted out (now Bruce McKenzie)

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Doreen’s headstone at Whenua Tapu Cemetery, Wellington

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More:  ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar? – A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’

Excerpt  from ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?; A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’          

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***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or images can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

Doreen Marie Frandi. (Painting by afcoory)

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Several times I had offered my mother the airfare to come and visit for Christmas, or at some other time, but she always refused. She was always in my thoughts, as I knew she would be missing Kevin dreadfully; this son who’d been everything to her for most of her adult life.

I visited her  a couple of times, as I longed to talk to her and ask her about her life, but she barely spoke. By then, her bipolar disorder, the drugs and the electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), had taken their toll on her mental faculties. For, as any person with experience or knowledge of this disorder will tell you, the cure can be worse than the disease; vitality and creativity are sucked dry and emotions are flattened – their whole personality, the person they are, is suppressed.

Once when my daughter Gina and I visited my mother in her little council flat in Newtown, we just sat quietly with her. In an attempt to extract some response, I asked her mundane things like what she was eating, what pills she was taking, anything to make conversation with her, but it was very difficult. She did explain, however, that the pills she was taking ‘stop me feeling anxious all the time’. Her emotionless voice filled me with sadness; her response was to please me, a rehearsed phrase. My heart ached to just take her in my arms and cuddle her, but whenever I had tried to do so, it was like cuddling a piece of wood. Gina and I had planned to spend the day with her, but Gina left for about two hours to visit a friend nearby. My mother and I were left sitting in her pint-sized sitting/dining room, she chain-smoking all the while. I tried again.

‘Do you have any photographs we could look at?’

‘No’ was the soft reply, ‘I sent them all to my sister Betty in America’.

Whenever I think back to that day and her answer, I feel like weeping. She answered my question as though I was a stranger of whom she felt apprehensive. I always got the impression she was anxious I would suddenly confront her about her abandonment of me, so I tread very gently. As we sat on her couch, waiting for Gina’s return, she suddenly turned to me in a cloud of smoke and said in an unusually confident tone, ‘You have a lovely daughter, Anne’. That was it. She turned away again and reverted to her state of narcosis; her fallback position, puffing away while gazing fixedly at nothing in particular.

The years of ECT and powerful mood-control drugs had eliminated every shred of my mother’s vibrancy that I remembered as a child. That bright red hair, that dazzling smile that had once propelled me to obsessively search for her everywhere among the crowds was gone.

ECT was introduced into Porirua Psychiatric Hospital in 1944, where it was used without anaesthetic on patients suffering from acute depression or ‘over-excitability’. My mother was admitted there again and again from the late 1950s onwards, sometimes in the throes of psychotic delusions. Towards the end of her life she would admit herself, looking for comfort and safe haven from the relentless demons which never allowed her any solace in her life, not even at the end of it. When Gina returned from visiting her friend, my mother decided to make us a cup of tea, and as she pottered in her cupboard of a kitchen, Gina said to me gently, ‘Mum, she is never going to love you’. My heart broke again. I didn’t want to hear that, not even as a woman fast approaching middle age. But I knew in my heart that she was too terrified to love me, or anyone else for that matter, except Kevin. She knew the terrible cost and she’d lived her life with the overwhelming guilt of it all.

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I loved my mother dearly, and if not her physical being, which, sadly no photographs of her and her children together can bear witness, and without remembered mother and daughter cuddles, then certainly, through a deep primal memory of her, which is still with me today and often overwhelms me. I emotionally clutch my childhood memories, of fleeting visits with her in Dunedin that my father secretly instigated, and the ones when she would creep somewhere to snatch a moment with me, no matter how fleeting. What haunts me is that radiant smile that had a way of spreading over her face and crinkling up her eyes, all framed in wild red hair. I wonder, how did she manage that smile while living in her hell? Those must have been the only fleeting joyful moments in a lifetime for her.

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Frandi girls

Anne Frandi-Coory’s mother Doreen Marie Frandi and her two younger sisters

Updated 19 July 2017

The price you pay for a book bears no relation at all to the value of the stories and lessons held within!  I found The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai, [a prolific cultural anthropologist] marked down at a sale in a favourite NZ book shop.  I believe that, like cats, books find you, you don’t find them.  In all my travels I have never seen this book anywhere else.  And I found it while writing the final manuscript for Ishtar?

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Fayez A. Sayegh comments in The Arab Mind: ‘…yet even more devastating… was the drying up of the creative and adventurous spirit within Arab society itself. The keen intellectual curiosity which characterised the preceding period, the passionate and untiring search for knowledge, and the joy of adventure were smothered under a hard crust of dogma and fundamentalism. Free thought was banished, traditionalism reigned in its place…’

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One of the most enlightening books (for me) I have ever bought

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I grew up without knowing my Italian mother as a person.  She suffered from severe bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes. So, at ten months old, I was placed in a Catholic  Orphanage for the poor, and was visited only by my devoted Lebanese father.  His extended family could not find any room in their hearts to love me.

My father often took me to visit his extended family, in the futile hope that  their frozen hearts might thaw, but the quiet, prayerful ways of a nun-studded convent does not prepare a young girl well for the noisy and multi-generational home of  Middle Eastern immigrants.  In their view I was “of another breed”.  I escaped Catholicism and “Little Lebanon” as a teenager and never returned.  However, you can take the girl out of her Lebanese extended family but you can’t take the Lebanese influence out of the girl, as the familiar cliché goes.  I picked up the Aramaic language they spoke and many positive aspects of their lives; great cooks, devotion to family (if you didn’t have a foreign mother that is) but those positives  were buried deep in my soul for many years, under all the negatives.

From The Arab Mind by Albert H. Hourani: To be a  Levantine is to live in two worlds or more at once, without belonging to either; to be able to go through the external forms which indicate the possession of a certain nationality, religion or culture, without actually possessing it. It is no longer to have a standard of values of one’s own, not to be able to create but only able to imitate; and not even to imitate correctly, since that also needs a certain originality. It is to belong to no community and to possess nothing of one’s own. It reveals itself in lostness, pretentiousness, cynicism and despair.

The Arab Mind was such a help in the final stages of writing   Whatever Happened To Ishtar? A Passionate Quest to Find Answers for Generations of Defeated Mothers.  Many of my Lebanese family’s ethnocentric behaviours suddenly took on new meaning; the hatred they exhibited toward my Italian mother and by association, to me, was the result of thousands of years of cultural prejudice.  Necessary in desert and mountain life in sectarian communities where brutal invasion and massacre were a common way of life.

To the Arab, saving face and honour are everything and when your beloved eldest son marries a sharmuta (Aramaic for prostitute-every woman who did not live up to the family’s cultural values was labelled sharmuta) then what can you do but exile from the family the issue of that union!  Being the only girl child made it easy for them to make me the scapegoat of all the family’s ills in a foreign country.

Historian Oswald Spengler: The Arab culture is a discovery . . . Its unity had been suspected by the late Arabs, but it escaped the Western historians so completely that one cannot find even a good designation for it. On the basis of the dominant language one could term the pre-culture and the early period Aramaic, the late period, Arabic . . . The Arab spirit however, mostly under a late-antique mask, cast its spell over the emerging culture of the West, and Arab civilization, which in the folk psyche of Southern Spain, Provence, and Sicily is superimposed that of antiquity…

In this current era of the ‘Arab Spring’, I recommend you find a copy and read The Arab Mind to gain an understanding of how differently we westerners from such very young countries, like Australia and New Zealand, view everyday life.  I think the half of my book that dealt with my father’s family was a much kinder book in the end because I read The Arab Mind before I sent my re-written manuscript off to the publishers.  So many of the events that played out in my childhood took on very different meanings, while suppressed memories re-surfaced.  I understood better, what it must have been like for my naive, fifteen year old Syrian/Lebanese grandmother, from the hills of Bcharre in Lebanon, to marry and follow my grandfather to the other side of the world. She was one tough, superstitious old woman when I met her.

How relevant to the lives of my Maronite Lebanese extended family, and by the same token, to the current Arab Spring,  are the following quotes in the book:

Nabih Amin  Faris and Mohammed Tawfik Husayn  write in The Arab Mind: ‘In some respects Arab absorption [particularly Arab Muslims] in their bygone days tends to be a chronic disease. It stems naturally from the general misery of the majority of the people and the wretched social and political conditions since the fall of the Abbasid empire and the Arab states in Spain and North Africa. They live in a splendid past as an escape from the miserable present…Until the closing years of the eighteenth century, the Arab world was in a state of near stagnation, ingrown, content with its prevailing conditions, resigned to its fate, and blissfully ignorant of the events unfolding around it. Then the West descended upon the Arab world as a conqueror, bringing its culture, civilisation, and science, its missionaries, its mercantile goods and commodities, and political, economic and military domination.’

I found chapter 15, The Question of Arab Stagnation particularly interesting. e.g. the Arab admiration for Israel; its excellence in scientific research, and its brilliant scholars and universities. Its global achievements in weaponry, commerce and banking, not to mention its organisational abilities in all walks of life. ‘The Jews, their rich people and their financial institutions…donate millions for their researches in Israel; but our rich people and our financial institutions,  our leaders, our rulers …do not contribute a single gursh [penny], but ask: Why donate to science?’  This chapter has several publications written by Arabs who are very critical of Arab stagnation since the early 14th century and why they believe Israel won the 1967 war. It may surprise readers to know that upwards of 200,000 Arabs a year regularly visit Israel because they love the place, and everything that it has to offer them, and which they cannot easily access in their own country.

Faris and Husayn further recognise that ‘the cultural famine which ravages Arab life is indeed not novel, nor is it the handiwork of colonial rule, feudal rapacity and local oppression alone…its roots go far back into the history of the Arab people.’ …the low position in which Arab society keeps its women is an important contributing factor to this sorry state of affairs.  ‘No wonder,’ they exclaim, ‘that the Arab world remains backward, tradition-fettered, and limping behind the procession of human achievement, when women’s status is so low.’

It is not enough for Arabs to continue to blame the West for their stagnation…dam butlab dam feuds were so intense among the Arab tribes [blood demands blood or an eye for an eye] in pre-Islamic times, and were such a permanent feature of life…’that an important contributing factor to Muhammad’s success in rallying the people of the Arabian Peninsula around the banner of the new religion he preached was the fact that widespread feuding had weakened the Arab tribes and made it impossible for them to unite against him.’

From author Hisham Sharabi in The Arab Mind: …There is no turning away from Europe. This generation’s psychological duality, its bilingual, bicultural character are clear manifestations of this fact. It has to judge itself, to choose, and to act in terms of concepts and values rooted not in its own tradition but in a tradition that it has still not fully appropriated.

From Author Halim Barakėt in The Arab Mind:…We are a people who have lost their identity and their sense of  manhood. Each of us is suffering from a split personality, especially in Lebanon. We are Arab and yet our education is in some cases French [my grandfather’s second language was French], in some cases Anglo-Saxon and in others Eastern Mystic. A very strange mixture. We need to go back and search out our roots. We’re all schizophrenic…

The Arab Mind is a great read, very well written, and draws on accomplished writers and authors who know their topic well.   I urge anyone interested in Arab culture and history, to read this book.

I have lived a life in two halves, so I know what Barakėt means about being schizophrenic. Writing Ishtar? helped me to become one person and to discover the wonderful Italian and Lebanese genetic talents buried within me. The young Arabs of today have so many tools to use in their search for who they are; Facebook, Google, Twitter, blogging, mobile phones, formal education, etc etc.  Let’s hope their search for an identity wont take as long as it did my generation.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 3 September 2014

 

Renoir: 'On The Terrace' 1879. In Memory of Missing Mothers

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One of the saddest things for me that has come out of research for my book  Whatever Happened To Ishtar?  is the fact that some historical birth and marriage certificates only record the names of fathers and paternal grandparents.  It was indicative of an era when only males were considered important in the scheme of life.  Although I have built up an extensive family tree of both my Lebanese and Italian ancestors, there are many gaps where a mother’s name should be. And each gap represents not just a missing name but links to whole lineages.  As  examples: when, after many years of searching,  I located an ancient document of my maternal great grandmother’s birth,  her mother’s name was omitted;  a marriage certificate where both the mother of the bridegroom and of the bride were omitted.  In some other cases I was able to find the information in a baptism confirmation certificate or in immigration archives, but my family trees have several names missing.  My hope is that descendants of those families I have written about, will  read my book and help fill in some of the missing gaps for our descendents.

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