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Strength and Vulnerability: Majd Zaher’s New Novel Looks Beyond the Veneer of Lebanese Society

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  1. Your first book ‘Borderline Love in Beirut’ explores some challenging topics and complex characters. Can you explain the inspiration behind the story? 

Growing up in a conservative family brought many challenges to my life. There was always something missing in every moment I spent living. There was a part of me that I wanted to discover and unleash yet I was afraid of judgments and backlash. Hence, I grew up as the loneliest kid in town as I had no friends and always found myself the weakest individual wherever I was. Moving out from my family’s house and starting an independent life was an eye-opening experience and the main motive that made me talk and write. I wanted this novel to be a celebration for everyone who doubted his own potential, who thought that other’s opinion would be able to dim his or her own light, and on a personal level I wanted to prove to all those who had ever bullied me that I was able to find success and peace after all.

  1. One of the themes you deal with is marginalization and marginalized groups. Why did you decide to address this topic? 

Writing has always been a way to pave the road towards a better world and an escape from the prisons we might be existing in. Talking about marginalized groups is based on my stance that everyone has the right to exist if they are not hurting or killing anyone else; and no one has the right to decide who is eligible to enjoy life and who is not. Unfortunately, in Lebanon, we have no laws to protect vulnerable or marginalized groups. These groups include immigrants, domestic labors, queer people, or any other category. In Borderline Love in Beirut, I was no longer Majd, I ascended to Joy and Adam’s soul to show the world how difficult living life becomes when no one likes you, when everyone avoids you, and when everyone judges you for what you look like and not for the real person you are. In Lebanon, we have laws that penalize love that does not protect women from harassment. In Lebanon, our system does not give any attention to the importance of mental health and does not help marginalized groups to engage in society.

  1. What is the role of mental health in ‘Borderline Love’, and what are some lessons about dealing with or treating mental health issues from the story? 

In Borderline Love in Beirut mental health is the crux of the story. I will not be able to say how this Borderline case will evolve yet I could tell you how it all started. Joy and Adam were the victims of a society that has never been able to embrace them the way they are. Experiencing death, upbringing challenges, and health concerns, Joy and Adam grew to become victims each in their own way. The takeaway is that offering mental health care and support for people who undergo a certain trauma, and even those who did not, is something critical. We can no longer sit still when almost every hour a Lebanese citizen ends his or her life. We cannot sit still when people still think seeking mental health care are mad. We should learn that the strongest of us can sometimes be the weakest and most vulnerable.

  1. Is ‘Borderline’ a cautionary tale? Or is it intended as a reflection of another kind? 

I see in Borderline Love in Beirut as many tales narrated at once. This novel carries in its pages a cautionary and reflective approach. At many parts of the story when I discussed Joys struggles with loneliness, self-hate and first love I was narrating many past incidents. However, in other pages, I detached myself from this reality and decide to go the extra mile and tell others how destructive it would be for anyone to fall in love before loving himself or herself, or how painful does it become when you don’t praise your uniqueness, or you don’t embrace yourself before listening to people’s judgments.

  1. The book is set in contemporary Beirut and focuses primarily on young characters. How do you perceive your own society in Lebanon in terms of some of these issues, including marginalized groups and mental health issues? What would you hope for the future of Lebanon in terms of societal relations and acceptance? 

In Lebanon, the lifestyle is not bearable anymore but I’m still hopeful of what is coming next because I believe one day my people will wake up to realize that coexisting and accepting the other is the only way to guarantee long-lasting peace and prosperity. It is difficult to find words to describe Lebanese society, but I will say that it is strange and paradoxical. For example, if you go to certain areas in Beirut, you’ll see people of different backgrounds enjoying their lives without the essence of discrimination and stigma. However, if you would leave the city for a less than five-minute drive, you will see the opposite. My wish and sincere hope for the future is to have a safe place for all people to live in Lebanon. To have laws that do guarantee the rights of the weak, and more laws to ensure gender equality. I do hope as well more effort will be done to abolish the rules that penalize love and strengthen the rifts in society.

  1. The past year has been incredibly hard for Lebanon, and the world. What do you hope to impart, through ‘Borderline Love’ to young Lebanese who might have struggled through the August 4th explosion, COVID, and other major obstacles? 

My message here is for those who have struggled and continue to struggle, for those who have lost and learned, for those who are still seeking to find a path to a safe shore, to all dreamers and seekers, to all lovers, to parents and youth. I want to tell them all that fighting can be exhausting but the end results will be rewarding. Let them all know that we will not rest, nor will we accept living in a place where our brothers and sisters are being killed. Not when the weak are always abused, and when all we want to do is love yet obstacles are placed in our way. Let them all know that we shall rise, and we will rise stronger than ever because after each storm there is always hope. Borderline Love in Beirut is the utmost manifestation of this idea.

Michelle has been a part of the journey ever since Bigtime Daily started. As a strong learner and passionate writer, she contributes her editing skills for the news agency. She also jots down intellectual pieces from categories such as science and health.

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Lifestyle

What You Should Keep in Mind When Renting an Apartment?

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One of the first things you should keep in mind when renting an apartment is what the application process will entail. Many landlords and property management will require specific information from potential tenants, such as proof of income, rental history, and personal references. Some may even request your social security number to run a credit check. Be prepared for a fee, which may surprise you if it’s your first time renting an apartment. Therefore, you should apply for only those apartments you’re interested in living in.

Do I have to pay for utilities?

Some leases require tenants to pay for utilities, while others do not. Utility bills can vary depending on the type of property, age, and individual metering for each unit. Before renting an apartment, make sure the landlord transfers utilities to your name. If you do not transfer them on time, the landlord may end up with the utility bill and need to recoup the costs. Make sure you have a backup plan in case the landlord cancels your service.

To set up your utilities, contact your utility provider directly. Most utilities accept payments online, but some require a phone call or a physical address. You can find their contact information in your lease. Ideally, you contact these companies several weeks before moving in to get your utilities set up. If you find that you have to pay the bills before moving in, contact the utility provider ahead of time and request a plan for the period of your stay.

Utilities vary depending on whether your landlord will cover the costs. Some landlords choose to cover all utilities, while others charge only a portion of them. In such cases, utilities must be included in the rental payment, and the landlord will estimate the costs. If you are renting a single-family home, your landlord may be willing to cover utilities. If you have a small property with a backyard cottage, you will likely need to pay for the electricity and gas, and this is not something you should worry about, because your landlord won’t be able to charge you more.

Do I need renters insurance?

If you’re thinking of pet-friendly apartments for rent in Sacramento, the question may be: Do I need renters insurance? In many cases, you don’t. Your landlord’s insurance covers damages to their property, but not yours. Renters insurance protects your possessions from damages and liability claims. Plus, you won’t have to pay the landlord’s insurance if you get into an accident. And it’s cheaper than you might think – some renters end up paying virtually nothing at all.

The answer to the question “Do I need renters insurance when renting an apartment?” will depend on a few factors, such as your home’s value and location. A policy with a high deductible will be more expensive, so you should calculate the total value of your personal belongings beforehand. A low deductible will save you money if you need to claim. Moreover, having a policy protects you financially even if someone breaks into your apartment. Getting renters insurance gives you peace of mind if anything should happen.

Renters insurance protects you financially as well as your physical possessions. In case of a fire or burglary, it will pay to replace your belongings. And if your belongings get stolen, your insurance will reimburse you for them, which is a great benefit. You can even get renters insurance when traveling, and use the coverage to cover any additional living expenses. It’s cheap, and it protects your finances as well as your personal belongings.

Do I need a rental reference letter?

When renting an apartment, you may be asked to provide a rental reference letter. A landlord may request that you provide one to verify your reliability. The letter is not intended to be a character study, but rather a statement of your reliability as a tenant. If you do not have a landlord reference letter, you can request a letter from a landlord in your area who can provide one.

Choosing personal references is a personal choice, but it is important to choose the right people to provide them. Avoid family members or close friends because they may have skewed views of your character. Use people from your work experience to give unbiased references. A good personal reference shows the landlord your character, and a bad one could cost you the apartment. Make sure to get a reference letter from a landlord who knows you well and trusts you.

You must ensure that your rental reference letter is a positive one. If a previous landlord has a bad record, you should decline to write a rental reference letter. In this case, you should include any red flags in a positive tone, and conclude the letter with a positive recommendation for your former tenant. This will make you stand out in the rental market. Ensure that your landlord is honest and professional in the letter. It will help you if you write a positive reference letter for a former tenant.

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