What We're Reading / October 2021

Take a look at the great things we’ve read in October — an essay on poetry and joy, a new release on sex, power and consent, a moving story about a mother and daughter, and more!

After Australia by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Jane McCredie, CEO

I’ve been reading After Australia, an anthology edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmed  that features imaginings of what Australia is and might be from Indigenous and culturally diverse writers. The featured writers use fiction, non-fiction and poetry to reimagine Australia’s past and future, disrupting many of our national myths in the process. I was particularly taken by stories from Omar Sakr, Claire Coleman, Roanna Gonsalves and Karen Wyld, but there’s much more to explore in this extraordinary collection.


Radical Joy by Jazz Money for Sydney Review of Books

Martyn Reyes, Project and Communications Officer

I have been thinking a lot recently about the pressures put on First Nations writers and writers of colour to spill their trauma onto the page. I have also been immersing myself in conversations about how exploring joy and celebration, instead of hardship and struggle, can be a radical act. This conversation sits at the centre of First Nations poet, and Boundless speaker, Jazz Money’s essay, Radical Joy, written for Sydney Review of Books. Money interrogates the social, personal and historical significance of poetry within her community, and looks at how the violence of colonialism has shaped the literary form. The essay explores how Indigenous writers use poetry to resist, heal, make sense of the world and hold ‘the joy of Blak existence simultaneously on the page.’

‘For when living with the reality of colonial invasion, to be able to find sovereign joy becomes radical.’

After Story by Larissa Behrendt

Julia Tsalis, Program Director

After Story is told from the alternating perspectives of mother and daughter, Della and Jasmine, who are on a literary tour of England. Indigenous lawyer Jasmine has organised the trip to recover from a difficult case and with the hope of becoming closer to her mother. The story unfolds as they travel around England visiting sites such as Dickens’ London, Bloomsbury, Sissinghurst, the homes of Jane Austen and Shakespeare. As they travel Della and Jasmine grapple with their relationship which has been haunted by the disappearance of Jasmine’s older sister twenty-five years ago. Through each of them we experience the sites, people, and literary conversations on the tour, but from very different perspectives as they each focus on what is important to them.

Behrendt is intent on conveying important messages about race, the effects of trauma and colonisation, and the wonders of storytelling and family. This book has many lessons to offer, but it is never over-burdened by them, the story and characters are strong enough to carry them.

After Story leaves you wanting: more stories from Larissa Behrendt, more time to read and re-read all the books discussed, the opportunity to travel to the places on the tour, and the chance to be with your loved ones. This beautiful, powerful book should come with a warning that it will leave you with a deep desire to follow in their footsteps.

Love & Virtue by Diana Reid

Amy Lovat, Program Officer

I inhaled this new release in one sitting. Set in a prestigious Sydney university campus, it explores feminism, power, consent, class, privilege, sex, philosophy and growing up, told from the perspective of Michaela, who is fresh out of high school and grappling with new-found independence and that messy line between adolescence and adulthood. On her first day of uni she meets the bold, confident, fierce feminist Eve, and their rogue-ishly handsome philosophy lecturer with a bit of a reputation for blurring the student-teacher boundaries — both those relationships are fragile yet intense. This contemporary narrative is a debut by young author Diana Reid who turned her hand to writing a novel when the musical she co-write, 1984! The Musical!, was cancelled when the pandemic hit early in 2020. It’s striking, fierce, and authentic, encouraging us to question morality, institutional privilege, and what makes someone a ‘good’ person. Love & Virtue reminded me of Helen Garner’s The First Stone and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History — in a contemporary setting. I loved it.
Read the blurb here: ultimopress.com.au/loveandvirtue


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