Saide Harb-Ranero, who was raised in Lebanon, knows to never take for granted the everyday ordinary peaceful life she has in America.
Harb-Ranero, 38, who moved to Foxboro 2 1/2 years ago with her husband, Jose, and their daughters, Rebeka, 10 and Viktoria, 6, is now using her craft as a creative writer to share her story and help others tell theirs.
Harb-Ranero grew up in Lebanon where life was stable until the civil war broke out in her city Byblos in 1989. Before that, she said she had no idea that the country was at war for 15 years.
“When hell broke around us, my parents took us to a designated underground shelter and we had to stay there for a little bit under a year where we shared it with the rest of our neighborhood,” said Harb-Ranero.
She describes survival in the shelter as one of the most confusing periods of her life.
“I wanted to know what was going on. I would hide under the table where all the adults gathered to hear the news on a little radio. There was only one station broadcasting the news and the updates,” she said.
Her life as a teenager was very hard because she never felt she fit in her culture. She wanted to change the world but she couldn’t. It eventually led to anger and violent outbursts.
“I wanted to fight for women’s rights, wanted the government to care about its people and sadly, still to this day, haven’t happened yet hence the revolution that has been happening for almost three months now. I wanted to be taken seriously when I would say I’m depressed,” Harb-Ranero said.
Her mental health problems and violent tantrums were read as being ungrateful and her parents. They turned to doctors which led to many drug prescriptions.
But the fighting and anger did not stop. It was the case for a lot of her friends who she lost — most of them to drug overdoses, suicide, and reckless driving that led them to their deaths. By the age of 19, she experienced the deaths of seven of her friends.
The ones who survived, like her, immigrated to other countries.
At the age of 20, her parents saw that her journey would only lead to negative outcomes; either death by suicide or in a fight, or jail. Her sister and her husband suggested to her parents she go to Nova Scotia, Canada, for a summer, which she did.
“That summer I saw a life that I only imagined in my dreams, saw only in movies. So I stayed in Canada and enrolled in classes in college but I needed to change my visa from a visitor to a student and that can only happen in (leaving) the country to the closest Canadian embassy which was New York,” Harb-Ranero said.
On her way there, she stopped in Boston to see her aunt. It was Feb. 13, Valentine’s Day eve and her friend took her out to a club where she met the man who became her husband, Jose Renero. They got married that September in 2003.
Jose is Guatemalan and moved to America when he was 11. Neither had a town they called home at the time and they wanted their daughters to have a community to grow up in.
“Foxboro was the perfect town to buy a home; hence the perfect house in the woods we currently own,” Harb-Ranero said.
She said she always felt she was a writer, but her fear of rejection and self-doubt prevented her from ever saying it out loud. When she was in the first grade, her teacher asked the students to write a paragraph describing autumn. The teachers called her mother and told her that she would become a writer.
After she moved to the U.S., she attended Massasoit Community College and took a creative writing course with Tim Trask. She wrote a flash fiction story “Black Rose for Dad.” He said she needed to turn it into a novel.
She transferred to Bridgewater State University graduating with honors in English literature with a writing concentration. She applied to the Adrienne Tinsley Program, proposing research for her fiction novel that was based in part on her own experiences as a child of war, was granted money and began to write her book.
Because of her research, she participated in many conferences. Her novel won a spot in the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Utah. It was also her final honor thesis.
She has had poetry published in literary anthologies such as Yellow and Womb.
Also, a poem published in an online magazine Heretics, Lovers, and Madmen for their “The Color of Our Rights: A Reproductive Rights Collaboration.” A spoken word video, “The Lost City,” is published in the most noted newspaper in Lebanon An-Nahar in its online edition.
Her short story “An Arabian Tale” is published on Smashwords along with her poetry collection “The War Never Ended,” her children’s book series “Layla’s Dreams,” and her short story collection “When the Night Falls.”
Currently, she has been sending queries to agents and publishers for her historical fiction novel “Not a Victim” which is a story of a girl named Marie who was born in a fictional city in Lebanon called Qirya. Marie survives living in an underground shelter with her family during the 1989 Lebanese civil war and her teenage years. In the second part, she struggles to find herself in a country that she failed to trust and a series of unfortunate events (forbidden love, sex, rape, suicide, and abortion) tainted her life and changed her forever.
“Creative writing for me is my way of translating what happens in my mind daily. It is how I transform my fears, my anger towards social injustices, my question about humanity and the events that happen around, into art. It is a world I create for me to make sense of life. I write to breathe,” Harb-Ranero said.
She is offering to help others put their experiences and thoughts into words.
Harb-Rabero will be teaching a creative writing class for adults on Mondays, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., starting Jan. 27 through March 16. The classes, run through the recreation department, will be held at the CRRA Donald Cotter Recreation Hall. The cost is $65 per person.
She can be reached at Instagram: @saideharbranero or on Facebook: myinkedparchment.