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Authors Rayya Elias and Elizabeth Gilbert at Detroit Institute of Arts - Former Michigander Elias to read from her new memoir HARLEY LOCO, followed by a discussion with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Thursday, March 21, 2013

(Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) hosts author Rayya Elias, who will read from her new book, HARLEY LOCO: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side. The event is on Thursday, April 18, at 7 p.m. Following the reading, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, will join Elias for a discussion, and both authors will sign books. The event is hosted by 100 Women for the Arts, and is free with required advance reservations. To reserve a seat, visit

HARLEY LOCO is a dynamic and moving chronicle of Elias’ hard-won search for self, during which she came to realize that no matter what, people can eventually change their lives for the better without regret for the past. The book is published by Viking and is scheduled to be in stores in early April.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s introduction to the book, she says Elias had “experienced wealth, homelessness, brushes with fame, rehab (and more rehab), a million blown second chances, a dozen broken hearts, and one bloody-knuckled, ultimate spiritual redemption.”

Born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1960, Elias left with her family at the age of seven to escape rising religious and political tensions and settled first in Royal Oak, then in Warren, Michigan, only to discover herself newly embedded in a different kind of hostile landscape. Bullied in school for everything from not being cool enough (her mother made her clothes) to her language barrier, and caught between the worlds of her traditional family and her tough American classmates, she rebelled early.

Elias moved to New York City in 1983 to become a musician and supported herself with her uncommon talent for cutting hair. At the height of the punk and new wave movements, life on the Lower East Side was full of adventure, creative inspiration and temptation. But before long, her passionate affairs with lovers of both sexes went awry, her drug recreation became drug addiction, and if she wasn’t living on the streets, she was in jail.

HARLEY LOCO chronicles Elias’ early life, her time in Michigan, and her path from harrowing loss and darkness to a place of peace and redemption. Elias lives in New York where she is a musician, hairdresser, filmmaker, and also sells real estate to make some extra money. She has been clean since August 8, 1997.

100 Women for the Arts is hosting a reception with Elias and Gilbert at 6 p.m. with proceeds going to the DIA’s operating endowment. Tickets are $300 and include cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres, a signed copy of HARLEY LOCO and valet parking. This event brings together the area’s best and brightest female business and community leaders to support the growth of the DIA’s endowment to a sustainable level. For tickets, call 313-833-4005 or visit

About 100 Women for the Arts
Conceived of and lead by Barbara Gucfa, a director with AlixPartners, 100 Women for the Arts first came together in 2012 around the Detroit Institute of Arts’ successful millage initiative. The aim was to bring together 100 female business and community leaders to support the DIA, a beacon of culture for the Detroit area for well over a century. With further leadership provided by the 2012 Host Committee, more than 100 women came together to demonstrate their collective power, harnessing their philanthropic spirit to set the DIA on a path toward a sustainable future.

Event Host Committee: Tina Bassett, Karen Cullen, Rebecca Donnini, Nicole Eisenberg, Sharon Eisenshtadt, Mary Anne Gargaro, Jennifer Gilbert, Mary Ann Gorlin, Maha Jano, Bonnie Larson, Julie Rothstein


The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range, and depth. The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.

Programs are made possible with support from the City of Detroit and residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Contact: Pamela Marcil    313-833-7899