Hi folks! Today, I bring you author Isabelle Cecils and her memoir, Leaving Shangrila. Isabelle will be awarding a $30 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. For her other tour stops, please click on the banner above. And, be sure to leave comments and indulge in a bit of internet stalking for more chances to win! 🙂
Leaving Shangrila: The True Story of A Girl, Her Transformation and Her Eventual Escape by Isabelle Gecils, is the captivating memoir of a charmingly complex heroine.
Isabelle paints a colorful world as she tells the tale of how she forged her own path in the midst of turmoil. The story, set in Brazil where she grew up, is populated with fascinating characters, both good and bad. From a narcissistic mother to her perpetually flawed lovers to three resilient sisters, Leaving Shangrila’s motley crew make for an endlessly intriguing storyline.
Leaving Shangrila begins with young Isabelle, trapped in a hellish world. Surrounded by lies, manipulation, and abuse, Isabelle is desperate to escape the adversity of this place. Filled with tremendous strength and an unyielding drive to survive, she begins her journey toward freedom and self-realization. Through the trials and obstacles along the way, Isabelle goes back and forth to balance who she is with what she must do to survive.
With themes of perseverance, self-reliance, and the resilience of the human spirit, Leaving Shangrila: The True Story Of A Girl, Her Transformation and Her Eventual Escape highlights the important character traits one discovers on the path to finding their self. Truly empowering and inspirational, readers everywhere will relate to this coming of age story.
At the school grounds, my classmates cracked jokes about what happened during their afternoons together. They perched on one another as they traded stories and exchanged hugs. I heard about the English classes they took after school, their boat trips around the bays of Rio de Janeiro, the excited chatter that accompanied field trips I was never allowed to join. When the entire class decided to spend a lightly chaperoned weekend in Cabo Frio, a town with white, sandy beaches and coconut trees lining the boardwalks, my jealousy meter spiked. For two months, that is all anyone talked about. Since I did not even receive an invitation, nobody spoke with me.
I felt lonely observing them. I longed to be as adored as were the two most popular girls in my class: Isabela and Flavia. Isabela, despite the discolored white spots all over her skin due to type 1 diabetes, was the reigning queen. The boys swooned over Flavia, two years older than the rest of us although she repeated third and fifth grade due to her poor academic performance.
I observed these two girls, searching for what it was about them that made them special. Yes, they were both beautiful. While their beauty may have helped with their popularity, it surely was not the main factor, as there were other pretty girls too. I decided that what they had in common, what nobody else had, was that they were the best athletes in my class, even perhaps the best in all of the school.
Isabela and Flavia were always the ones everybody wanted to have on their team and as their friend. They were either team captain or the first pick. They seemed to try harder than everybody else. So I thought that if I truly focused on sports, then I could be just like them. If only I could excel on the handball field—as girls did not play soccer, despite the madness surrounding the most popular sport in Brazil—then maybe, just maybe, my social standing could change too. I made a plan. One day, I would be just as great as these two. One day, I would be chosen first.
The Making of Leaving Shangrila
By Isabelle Cecils
When I moved to the United States as teenager, I left my previous life behind.
From that moment on, I became a new person. I did not think about my past, did not talk about it, and did not think that I would ever feel compelled to.
But in 2004, my son was born.
By then, I had surrounded myself with friends and love, when earlier in my life I felt mostly alone and abandoned.
I found myself relatively successful professionally, using the financial security that it provided to mask that I grew up without means, often wearing tattered, stained clothing.
My travels around the world hid the fact that I had not been anywhere beyond the walls of a round house in the middle of a jungle in Brazil and its nearby town of Petropolis, until I first set foot in America.
Most importantly, I was the owner of my destiny, free to make choices that would keep both me, and now my newborn son, safe. A privilege that eluded me throughout my childhood.
It was hovering over my son’s crib that I felt the need to tell my story. I felt the calling to share with my son the story of the immense struggle to free myself from the circumstances where fate had placed me, that enable me to offer him a life free – to the extent that I could provide it – of fear, of lies and of loneliness. A gift that I had not been able to enjoy.
And I started writing Leaving Shangrila was born. I wrote this book in fits and spurts, when I found a moment among raising my family, building a business and having a life.
By then, I had a built an entire business focused on numbers and economic and business models. I can make spreadsheets sing! Writing? I had written various technical papers with the findings of my analysis, but that would not translate well into a book. So I applied to the Stanford Creative Nonfiction Certificate program, with the purpose of obtaining guidance on how to write a book I am proud of.
It would have been easy to give up on this project and on this journey. My life was so hectic with various responsibilities and little time. But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. The more of Leaving Shangrila I shared with my classmates at Stanford over the ensuing 2.5 years, the more excited I felt about the universal appeal of my story and the power behind its message: that irrespective of where comes from and the adversities they face, we can end up with a different, better life, by rejecting lies and dysfunction.
I learned that we climb mountains one step at a time. So, It took me years to publish Leaving Shangrila. Along the way, I learned that this story was meant not only meant for my son (who has read it multiple times now), but for anyone who ever felt compelled to live a life of their choosing, not the one others create for them.
About the Author:
Isabelle Gecils grew up in Shangrila, a remote farm in a lush jungle in Brazil. But who really knows where she hails from? Her immediate family hailed from 6 different countries: France (dad), Egypt (mom and grandma), Turkey (grandpa), Lithuania (grandpa) and Poland (grandma). There is a freedom in belonging nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
Leaving Shangrila is the story of Isabelle’s journey from a life others choose for her to one she created for herself. To support the writing of this memoir, Isabelle completed the Stanford Creative Nonfiction Writing certificate program. She currently lives in Saratoga, California, with her husband, four sons and two territorial cats.