The English Department at Southern is home to a talented faculty whose research and published works are shining examples of what the university has to offer, and one of their own is making big moves in publishing this year.
Rebecca Dimyan, an adjunct English professor at Southern who teaches professional writing and first-year composition classes, is publishing two books in 2023: Chronic, A Memoir, about Dimyan’s health journey, and Waiting for Beirut, a historical fiction novel. Both books have received 2023 Firebird Book Awards, Chronic in the Alternative Medicine category and Waiting for Beirut in the Fiction category.
Dimyan believes her nine years of teaching at Southern has influenced her writing and improved her skills. “When I’m grading papers, I’m looking at it through the lens of educating students, but also as an editor. When you’re regularly writing, reading, and editing, it also benefits you,” she explains.
Balancing teaching and writing is no small feat, and Dimyan credits parenthood for giving her the tools for success. She says, “As I’ve become busier, specifically after becoming a mom, I feel like I manage my time better because I have less of it.” She noted that she carves out time blocks for teaching, grading, and for her writing.
Waiting for Beirut started as her master’s thesis, which has been an 11-year writing process. The novel takes place in 1950s Lebanon, as well as Danbury, Conn. The novel’s protagonist is a first-generation American who drops out of college to help the family’s business, but also comes to terms with his sexuality after falling in love with a man while on his honeymoon with his wife.
The novel explores the immigrant experience, sexuality, and religion. As a descendant of Lebanese immigrants, Dimyan was inspired by her family history. “My grandfather was gay, but he always was in the closet. He never came out; he never had a chance to, really,” she says.
A departure from historical fiction, Chronic, A Memoir was written over the course of three years about Dimyan’s experiences with endometriosis and her holistic healing journey. While she was working on her novel, Dimyan was writing articles for an online publication regarding her illness and the difficulties with getting proper treatment.
“It takes an average of five to seven years to get a diagnosis, and oftentimes the pain is dismissed,” Dimyan explains.
Endometriosis is a disorder where tissue like that which lines the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus, and the condition is often very painful.
“I’m trying to advocate for change in how we talk about these things,” says Dimyan. “It always ends up coming up in conversation. Every semester, I have at least one student who has endo or thinks they might have it, and we have these conversations about how frustrating it is to get that diagnosis.”
While Dimyan’s two books are very different in content and audience, they share a similar mission: to shed light on important personal issues that often go unaddressed or unspoken.
Chronic: A Memoir was released on June 6, 2023, from Woodhall Press, and Waiting for Beirut, a finalist for the Fairfield Book Prize, will be released by Running Wild Press this month.