Written by Gayle Dy
Last February, Author and poet Lang Leav found her way back to the Philippines for the third time, equipped with her latest collection of poetry and prose entitled, Love Looks Pretty On You.
The book, which is Leav’s tribute to mothers and sisters all around the world, is definitely distinct from its older sisters, The Anthology of Love and Sea of Strangers, in the sense that its scope of themes is much broader and allows us to delve gladly into other aspects of Lang’s life, even if they be in snippets. Some of these new, emerging voices include female empowerment, mental health, and self-discovery, thus proving that Leav is more than just the master of love young readers know her to be.
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In fact, Lang firmly believes that a good writer can write well in any genre, be it an essay, advertisement, novel, or even poetry. Writers are natural absorbers, she said. They absorb ideas and experiences and that’s where the work comes from. In Lang’s own words, “I think a lot of our work is just based on life and the people around us and the things that inspire us. And with those things, you can mold it into whatever you want, like clay. And I think that’s the most wonderful and creative part about being a writer—you can take experiences and you can shift them, change them, and you can create something beautiful out of them.”
When I asked her why she chose to shift her focus to these themes, she answered, “I think I did it accidentally, like it naturally just happened. I mean, Love Looks Pretty On You is me taking stock of the past ten years of my life and all the things that mattered to me. Through writing, I can keep all these records in a place where I can just sit back and look at my life from a bird-side point-of-view and just be happy with the way it all turned out.”
Apparently, Lang’s accidental pursuits end up becoming very productive. An example of this is Love Looks Pretty On You, which the best-selling author said she never even set out to write in the first place. “I didn’t plan to write this book. It just came pretty organically and naturally. Much like the cover, it was just elements coming together before eventually forming a manuscript.” Leav also shared that the cover of Love Looks Pretty On You is her favorite book cover so far.
Leav’s latest book touches a bit on the themes of home, on stories of what it was like for her and her family immigrating to Thailand to escape the Khmer Rouge that terrorized Cambodia where they are originally from. Leav’s mother, who was pregnant with her at the time, eventually gave birth to the writer in a refugee camp in Thailand, where they stayed 11 months before finally moving to Australia. Though she has not been back to Thailand or Cambodia since then, Leav expressed that she would love to go someday.
Reminiscing on her formative years in Australia, Leav says, “Growing up in a multi-cultural society, it’s kind of cool having friends from different nationalities. And it just goes to show that the world really can get along, you know, kids just being kids and hanging out and reading books.”
But growing up in a migrant town that focused on stable careers was not all fun and games for Lang, either. She faced a lot of objection on her career path, but in the end, she still proved unstoppable.
Fortunately, her parents were open-minded and supportive of her choice, believing that she was really great for their time. Lang also credits creativity for often getting the best of artists and being an irrepressible dream. “That was the case, too, for me,” she says. “So I can’t imagine ignoring it, but still, even if I did, I think I would’ve found my way.”
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Repost from @chloeangelo ? A beautiful day in one of my favourite places in the world, the Botanical Gardens in Sydney, where we filmed my feature interview with @marcfennell from @thefeedsbsviceland ♥️ I wish there was a word to describe the feeling you get when you return to a place you know and love. Link to the full interview is available via the latest story on my profile. xo Lang #sbs #botanicalgardens #langleav #poetry
Unsurprisingly, Lang’s son, Oliver, who is now fifteen, is also a terrific writer, according to her. With a chuckle, she recounts the events of the night before she left for the Philippines, saying, “You know, its really funny because the other night, he showed me his essay for school and when he does that, I think, ‘Omg, I’m gonna stay up for the next two hours editing and going through this with him,’ but I read it and I said to him, “You know what, Ollie? There’s like one typo in this whole thing, but aside from that, its really great. You’re a great writer.”
“What I’m passionate about is education, especially for women from low socioeconomic backgrounds like the one I came from. I feel that literature really saved my life and I want that to be accessible for women everywhere. I want all women to be educated and to have choices in life and become silver.” -Lang Leav
Currently, Lang is working on a new novel about a girl who is an aspiring poet, which is to be released later this year. But before you go jumping to conclusions, it’s not based on Lang herself. And while it is fiction, she adds that she will be drawing from her own experiences. “I’m very excited and I think my fans are gonna love it,” Lang smiles from ear-to-ear. We can’t wait for it, either!
Despite already having achieved her biggest dreams of being a successful writer, Lang believes that her greatest legacy has still not been fulfilled. In the future, she wishes to make education for women more obtainable, saying, “What I’m passionate about is education, especially for women from low socioeconomic backgrounds like the one I came from. I feel that literature really saved my life and I want that to be accessible for women everywhere. I want all women to be educated and to have choices in life and become silver.”
Her final secret to making anyone fall in love with poetry is to try and read it, and the love for it will just fall into place. “How could you not love it?” she urged. Same, Lang, same.
Despite my being overly nervous hours before (and even during) the interview, Lang was such a pleasant person to chat with. There’s something indescribably beautiful about being able to talk to one of your idols about your mutual love for a certain craft, and even more, to share her dreams and realize that at one point, she had been exactly in your shoes, too. A dreamer and, in my case, one who hopes to change the world someday through my writing.
She makes me believe that I’ll get there and, for me, that’ll always be part of her legacy. Making people from all walks of life believe that they can.
Make sure to grab a copy of Love Looks Pretty On You, available in all leading National Bookstore branches nationwide.