This Is Not My Story


It’s rather ironic, I talk more than any three speedy-tongued cartoon characters put together and yet seldom reveal anything truly personal. I am private, ridiculously so, and chatter is my shield. This protective instinct extends to the secrets of others. My mother calls me “the vault” and I have become a kind of repository for the confessions and struggles of friends and strangers alike. I don’t reveal these confidences without permission and thus this is the first time I’m sharing the inspiration behind my latest release. Dreams’ Dark Kiss is my book but it’s not my story.

A few weeks ago: I shocked my cousin, Rhian, with the news I’d written a book for her. She cried. I struggled not to.

A couple of years prior: My sisters, mother and I arrived in London to spend Christmas with our family there. The city was draped in a fog so thick it clung to our faces in a pall—seeming to portend news to come.  My auntie tried to prepare us in the cab but when I walked into my cousin’s room and saw her face…her lip sliced in two, one eye swollen, the other marbled with the red of broken blood vessels, and her expression of mingled pain and shame…I…my hands ached to crush something. I wanted to hunt the monster, the boyfriend, who had hurt my little Rhian. But this is not my story.

Rhain and her boyfriend had argued. She’d said something smart-alecky—the girl has a gift for edgy wit, a gift that most often brings smiles, never hurt. He’d struck her. Left the flat. Come back and beaten her relentlessly. When she defended herself he asked her, “Why are you fighting me like you’re a man?” She said, “Why are you beating me as though I was one?” I guess he’d felt his manhood had been challenged by a smart comment from a 5’ 3” woman. What a man.

Although Rhian knew it was irrational she blamed herself, had lost her confidence, and I knew the wound was deep. What could I do? The police were investigating. She’d been to the doctor. And I was already holding her, my sweater absorbing her tears, my heart drenched in her pain.

In those moments a heroine, Ciaran, took form. I couldn’t do anything to reshape what had happened but, dammit, I’m a writer and I could sculpt an inspiration from words. In Dreams’ Dark Kiss and in Rhian’s stead, Ciaran, a woman recovering from an assault, gets sucked into a world of corporeal nightmares bent on breaking her down and using her to create hell on earth. In response she kicks ass.

A few weeks ago: I explained I hadn’t dedicated the book to Rhian because “I didn’t want to put [her] business in the street”.  In true heroine form she replied, “I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen. I may have suffered more for it but I fought back and because of that I can deal. I want women to know they can do the same.”

So if you decide to read Dreams’ Dark Kiss you’ll understand why it’s my book, but not my story. It belongs to women—a battle cry to remind us even after we’ve been beaten down we get back up, we overcome, and we kick major ass.

Shirin Dubbin
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12 thoughts on “This Is Not My Story”

  1. Lori says:

    Awesome. Thank you for sharing this and for honoring someone you love in such an amazing way.

  2. Angela Henry says:

    Very moving post, Shirin. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. I read this post at work, getting teary-eyed and struggling not to sniff loud enough to bring my coworkers over to my cubicle. I’ll be buying the book as soon as I get home.

    What a wonderful, heartfelt way to share your cousin’s story and give other women the strength to move on and overcome something so traumatic.

  4. Kat says:

    This is such a loving tribute to your cousin and strong women everyone.

  5. Eleri Stone says:

    Thank you for sharing this Shirin and to Rhian for letting you..”in true heroine form”. So true.

  6. Liz Fichera says:

    Look forward to reading the story!

  7. Debra Kayn says:

    Shirin – I’m speechless and so touched by the story behind the story…but not surprised. I’ve known you for two years. You’re mom is right. You are the vault, and that is what makes you so special to everyone who knows you.

    Obviously, strong women run in your family. You and Rhiann are amazing people!

  8. Thanks to you all for your kind comments. This is one of those rare moments when I don’t know what to say…Thank you.

  9. Thanks, Shirin, for sharing Rhian’s story. I’m tearing up at her courage. Bless you both.

  10. Got chills reading your cousin’s words. May she continue to be a strong woman.

  11. Shaina Hairston says:

    To a awesome truly touched women who I have grown to love and respect. I am so proud to be your sister. May this story touch those who read as much as it touched our lives. I love You!!

  12. …and there go the tears. Thank you, Shain. I love you too! And I’m going to do my best to be worthy or your pride and faith in me. (When Rhian comes to visit we’re going to be a mess) :)

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