What We're Reading / November 2018

Our staff have a range of reading interests, and we’re sharing about our picks for November!

Our November reads include Vodka and Apple Juice: Travels of an undiplomatic wife in Poland by Jay Martin, Defiance, Feminism, Empathy: The Writings of Kat Muscat by Kat Muscat, The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser, Dancing at the Edge of the World by Ursula K. Le Guin, and The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon.

Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Online Program Officer

Vodka and Apple Juice: Travels of an undiplomatic wife in Poland is a memoir of Jay Martin’s three years in Poland accompanying her husband on a diplomatic posting. Having left a successful career in Canberra, Martin is both excited and nervous to step away from work and experience life in a new culture. Martin’s narrative traces her efforts to learn the Polish language and the unwritten rules of Polish life, as well as the challenges of making meaningful friendships and helping her marriage survive the long, grey winters. Her writing is personable, peppered with gentle humour and introspection. Vodka and Apple Juice won the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Unpublished Manuscript and is Martin’s first book.

Dan Hogan, Program Officer

I’ve been reading Defiance, Feminism, Empathy: The Writings of Kat Muscat. This book enshrines Kat’s greatest and most powerful work. The collection covers a vast array of subject matter and genre, culminating in a glowing archive of one of Australia’s most insightful and incisive writers. Deep-dives on gender, sexuality, violence, mental health, and marginalisation to erotic fan fiction and lessons that can be learned from listening to Blink 182—Kat’s writing is transcendent and vital. It is a commanding book. A book that dares to invoke defiance in order to build a bolder, kinder future.

“Frustration might just motivate you; uncertainty can be freeing; negativity, correctly wielded, is a constructive force.” – Kat Muscat

Jane McCredie, CEO

Michelle de Kretser’s The Life to Come is an often surprising, sometimes disconcerting, compilation of a book. Described as a novel, in some ways it seems more like a collection of loosely linked short stories. The various protagonists connect to each other only through their relationship with the recurring character of Pippa, a self-absorbed Australian writer of doubtful talent, though considerable apparent success. Kretser’s spare, elegant prose is a delight and her evocation of character is wonderful. The portrait of Christabel, the ageing Sri Lankan immigrant who is the protagonist of the book’s final section, is particularly moving.

Myra Opdyke, Project & Communications Intern

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my all-time favourite authors, and I’m currently reading her book Dancing at the Edge of the World. This is a compendium of talks, essays, and other pieces of her writing from 1976-86. Le Guin was a sci-fi and fantasy writer who explored diverse issues from race and gender to societal structure and social constructs, and she was sometimes asked to speak about these topics; she decided to draw those talks together here rather than exile them to the past. Although some of her comments in this collection can seem a little dated, they are nonetheless thought-provoking. As ever, her descriptions of people and processes are quirky and entertaining, making it an interesting read on a multiplicity of topics.

Annie Zhang, Acting Project & Communications Assistant

I’ve recently been reading The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon. This is a strange novel that explores the nature of religious fanaticism and terrorism against the backdrop of an obsessive romance. Our titular narrator is Will, who has recently dropped out of Bible college and is looking to leave faith and fundamentalism behind him. But then he embarks on a romance with Phoebe, a young Korean-American woman who has become entangled in the violent workings of a religious cult on their elite university campus. Kwon’s book is filled with surprising characters and memorable prose, and she offers a very eerie deliberation of the complexities of faith.

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