In conversation with Lee Kofman
The experiences of Lee Kofman’s life have collectively merged to birth an unapologetically honest voice that probes into the creases of human nature and its fickle complexities.
Kofman, who was born in Russia, speaks three languages (Russian, Hebrew and English) – each of which are responsible for solidifying her award-winning writing style.
Her most recent work of non-fiction, Imperfect, is a deeply personal memoir detailing her ongoing battle with self-acceptance.
Imperfect sees Kofman reveal how she sustained her bodily scars and the many ways they have affected her sense of identity, both positively and negatively.
She said she tried to divulge her most private thoughts in the hope of communicating that the way we look goes further than the skin’s flesh.
“I always wanted to tell my story since I was a teenager. I had all my scars by the time I was 11, but I felt very ashamed to tell the story because I was bullied in school at the time, so I covered them.
“I grew up thinking it was all my fault, and that I wasn’t what a woman should be. The way we look is not skin deep, it’s much deeper than that.
“It can affect how we feel about ourselves, how others feel, what opportunities we have, what choices we make, and it can even affect our personality.
“My scars not only affected me in terms of feeling ashamed and bad about myself, they also changed me a lot. My book looks at what we look like and how it influences our lives, and not just in negative ways.”
Having multiple cultural identities has led Kofman to consider her writing as “careful”.
She said there were many advantages to writing as an “outsider” as it provides a platform to contemplate – and deliver – a wide range of perspectives.
“In every language I have a different personality. When I speak Russian, I’m like a child frozen in time, but when I speak Hebrew, it’s short sentences and a bit harder in sound; I have a bit of bravado and I’m tougher.
“When I speak English, I’m more uncertain and more philosophical… I’m dreamier in some ways. It’s a very flexible language, and I like being able to complicatedly construct a sentence in English.”
She also said “certainty in writing is the enemy”.
“I think questions are a lot more interesting than answers.”
Kofman will host three workshops at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre’s Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival (November 15-17).
Her individual workshop “Mastering Emotional Honesty” will look at how writers can show the “shades of the human soul” through accurately describing feelings.
Head to wordforwordfestival.com.au.