Man Booker Prize-winner Paul Beatty (The Sellout) and award-winning author Roxane Gay (Difficult Women) both use humour to write about the trauma of history. According to The Guardian, The Sellout ‘has a joke-per-line ratio that a comedy writer would kill for, but the humor is nowhere near safe’. Roxane’s Difficult Women is a collection of stories of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. They talk to Michael Williams about using bleak, provocative humour with purpose. 

Paul Beatty (International)

In 2016 Paul Beatty became the first American to be awarded the Man Booker Prize. His winning book, The Sellout, also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. The darkly comic novel chronicles an urban farmer who tries to spearhead a revitalisation of slavery and segregation in a fictional Los Angeles neighbourhood. Beatty began his career as a poet before turning his hand to fiction with White Boy Shuffle, followed by Tuff and Slumberland. He is also the editor of Hokum, an anthology of African-American humour.

Michael Williams (Australian)

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. A sometime Radio National presenter, he remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked in publishing and as a presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR (on Breakfasters), as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, and has written extensively for The Guardian, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and elsewhere.