Current Issue #477

Meet the first-time authors making their Adelaide Writers' Week debuts

Meet the first-time authors making their Adelaide Writers' Week debuts

From journalists-turned-novelists to ‘gleefully wicked women’, we unpack the new voices making their way to Adelaide Writers’ Week 2019.

The draw of established literary names might occupy the bulk of attention when a program is announced, but often the best part of literary festivals is the discovery of the new. Adelaide Writers’ Week is no different, and this year brings an outstanding crop of authors riding the promotional wave of their published debuts.

“It’s a critical part of Adelaide Writers’ Week’s remit to introduce new authors to our audiences,” director Jo Dyer says. “Sometimes they are more established authors who may not have developed a wider readership in Australia – such as Gina Apostol and Mohammed Hanif in this year’s program – and sometimes they are debut authors.”

Adelaide Writers’ Week’s 2019 crop of debut novels

“In 2019, there seemed to be a large number of debut novelists whose work made a big impact on me, including the deadpan delight that is Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer, Jing-Jing Lee’s painfully moving How We Disappeared and Preti Taneja’s epic account of contemporary India, We That Are Young.

“The fantastic by-product of Adelaide Writers’ Week’s main program being completely free is that our audiences are very open to discovering new authors. They’re prepared to go to sessions with authors they don’t know and subsequently dive into their work if the conversation appealed. It’s a vital and inspiring part of the way the week unfolds.”

We’ve put together a helpful guide to these new authors and where to see and hear them at Adelaide Writer’ Week 2019.

Oyinkan Braithwaite (Photo: Amaal Said)
Oyinkan Braithwaite (Photo: Amaal Said)

Oyinkan Braithwaite

Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer is no average crime novel. A wry, darkly comic story of sibling rivalry, patriarchy and a bit of boyfriend-killing (prat-icide?) is one of the year’s most hyped debuts, and is an exceedingly entertaining read. In addition to discussing the book on Saturday, March 2, she’ll take part in a talk about ‘Gleefully Wicked Women’ with Kiwi Annaleese Jochems, who is also touring her first novel.

Read our review of My Sister, The Serial Killer here

Gabrielle Chan
Gabrielle Chan

Gabrielle Chan

Guardian Australia journalist Gabrielle Chan looks to regional Australia in her book Rusted Off to learn the causes of the widespread political discontent that has seen rural voters abandon major parties for independent voices around the country. She will discuss the rural-urban divide with Sarah Smarsh and Don Watson on Tuesday, March 5.

Soraya Chemaly (Photo: Karen Sayre)
Soraya Chemaly (Photo: Karen Sayre)

Soraya Chemaly

A writer, activist and director of the New York-based Women’s Media Center Speech Project, Chemaly will touch upon her book Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger in a panel on riding the third wave alongside Natasha Stott Despoja and Sarah Henstra on Thursday, March 6. She will also appear at the ‘Rage, Rape and Revolution’ Zeitgeist talk.

Read our review of Rage Becomes Her here

Trent Dalton (Photo: Lyndon Mechielsen)
Trent Dalton (Photo: Lyndon Mechielsen)

Trent Dalton

A Walkley-winning journalist with The Weekend Australian, Dalton pivots to fiction with the novel Boy Swallows Universe. It’s an early 1980s coming of age story set against a backdrop of a dysfunctional family, crime and drugs, precisely the kind of modern Australian cultural text his regular employer might often mock. Nonetheless it’s being praised as a remarkable debut. He’ll speak on writing from one’s own life alongside Future D. Fidel on Saturday, March 2.

Kassem Eid
Kassem Eid

Kassem Eid

A Syrian refugee and human rights activist, Eid was the survivor of a sarin gas attack in the early years of the Syrian civil war. The experience propelled his journalism onto the world stage, culminating in his memoir My Country: A Syrian Memoir, which he will discuss on Saturday, March 2.

Future D. Fidel (Photo: Dylan Evans)
Future D. Fidel (Photo: Dylan Evans)

Future D. Fidel

Before arriving in Australia Congolese playwright Future D. Fidel spent the best part of a decade in a Tanzanian refugee camp. A novel adapted from a play first performed in 2015, Prize Fighter is the story of a child soldier turned refugee turned boxer. In addition to his panel alongside Dalton he’ll explore journeys and place alongside Moreno Giovannoni, Sisonke Msimang and Alice Pung on Tuesday, March 5.

Sujatha Gidla

Sujatha Gidla

This New York-based author’s first book Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India is both a personal history of Gidla’s family and an arresting account of the caste system in a modernising India. She will speak about the book on Monday, March 4, and take part in the Diasporic Dreaming panel on Sunday, March 3.

Ginger Gorman (Photo: Hillary Wardhaugh)
Ginger Gorman (Photo: Hillary Wardhaugh)

Ginger Gorman

A late addition to the program after the withdrawal of Ahmed Saadawi, Gorman is an award-winning journalist known for taking the Daily Mail to task over plagiarism. Gorman’s debut book Troll Hunting: Inside the World of Online Hate and its Human Fallout tracks the impact of online harassment and troll culture.

Chris Hammer (Photo: Adelaide Festival)
Chris Hammer (Photo: Adelaide Festival)

Chris Hammer

Drought and dirt is a recurring them across the 2019 Writers’ Week program, and Scrublands, the debut book from journalist Chris Hammer,uses the Riverina as the setting for a bleak crime novel driven by a difficult-to-explain mass shooting. He’ll discuss crime in fiction alongside Greenland’s Mads Peder Nordbro on Wednesday, March 6.

Annaleese Jochems (Photo: Victoria Birkinshaw)
Annaleese Jochems (Photo: Victoria Birkinshaw)

Annaleese Jochems

24 year old Kiwi author Annaleese Jochems has made waves back home with her first book Baby, described by Eleanor Cattan as “Heavenly Creatures for a new generation”. Praised for a mix of humour and wincing horror, Baby’s protagonist Cynthia has left reviewers aghast and intrigued (“Cynthia’s not trying to win universal affection, she’s trying to win specific affection,” Jochems told a New Zealand website). In addition to her discussion with Oyinkan Braithwaite she’ll speak on unreliable narrators with fellow first timer J.P. Pomare on Monday, March 4.

Jing-Jing Lee (Photo: Aline Bouma)
Jing-Jing Lee (Photo: Aline Bouma)

Jing-Jing Lee

Due for an Australian release in early March, Amsterdam-based Singapore writer Jing-Jing Lee’s How We Disappeared explores the violence and aftermath of Japan’s invasion of Singapore during World War II through the memories of a widow looking back at her life half a century later. She will be speaking on her book on Saturday, March 2, while also taking part in a discussion about memory and the ‘Telling Truths’ Twilight Talks Panel on Tuesday, March 5.

Nbada Mandela
Nbada Mandela

Ndaba Mandela

The grandson of Nelson Mandela, Ndaba is also the co-founder and co-chairman of the Africa Rising Foundation, and author of the memoir Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons From My Grandfather. He will appear on the ‘Reframing The Future’ Zeitgeist talk on Thursday, March 7.

Margaret Morgan (Photo: Virginia Szaraz)
Margaret Morgan (Photo: Virginia Szaraz)

Margaret Morgan

A criminal lawyer with experience writing for stage and screen, Morgan’s fiction debut The Second Cure paints a troubling possible future for Australia, as society is torn apart by a viral outbreak affecting the mind. She’ll discuss writing the future with James Bradley on Thursday, March 6.

Rick Morton (Photo: Aaron Francis)
Rick Morton (Photo: Aaron Francis)

Rick Morton

Another journalist with The Australian, Rick Morton’s memoir One Hundred Years Of Dirt looks back on the pain and trauma of his early years as his mother and siblings navigate the fallout of being cast out from their family home (Morton’s father came from a cattle station dynasty wracked by division and cruelty). He is also quite good on Twitter.

Morton will appear on the Telling Truths Twilight Talk on March 5, and discuss the effects of class with Sarah Smarsh on Thursday, March 6. He’ll also speak as part of Maeve Marsden’s Queerstories on Sunday, March 2.

Molly Murn (Photo: Jula Bulire)
Molly Murn (Photo: Jula Bulire)

Molly Murn

South Australian writer Murn takes a look at the at-times dark history of Kangaroo Island in her debut novel Heart Of The Grass Tree, delivering “a poetic narrative, relishing in sensuality and informed by historical research”. On Thursday, March 7 she will discuss the challenges of writing historic fiction, particularly when the pain and hurt of the stories being told are still being felt by those affected.

Read our review of Heart Of The Grass Tree here

J.P. Pomare (Photo: James Howarth)
J.P. Pomare (Photo: James Howarth)

J.P. Pomare

In addition to releasing his debut novel Call Me Evie late last year, J.P. Pomare is known for his podcast On Writing, which delves into the art of words alongside authors like Joyce Carol Oates, John Safran and the newly controversial Daniel Mallory. Perhaps he’ll touch on Mallory in his discussion about unreliable narrators with Annaleese Jochems.

Sarah Smarsh

Sarah Smarsh

With a long career as a journalist for The Guardian and The New York Times behind her, American writer Sarah Smarsh takes a look at her own life in Heartlind, a memoir about poverty, class and modern America.

Preti Taneja (Photo: Ben Gold)
Preti Taneja (Photo: Ben Gold)

Preti Taneja

British author Preti Taneja’s career has seen her report on human rights in Iraq, Jordan, Rwanda and Kosovo, before she turned her hand to fiction with We That Are Young. A modern retelling of King Lear transplanted to India, the country of Taneja’s parents, the book won the 2018 Desmond Eliott Prize for New Fiction upon its release in Britain. At Writers’ Week Taneja will explore the Indian diaspora in a panel with Sohaila Abdulali and Sujatha Gidla on Sunday, March 3, before discussing her own novel on Monday, March 4.

Explore the full 2019 Adelaide Writers’ Week program here

Adelaide Writers’ Week 
March 2 – 7
adelaidefestival.com.au/writers-week/

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