Reading is our first passport to the world, providing us with knowledge to understand our place in it and connecting us to a greater reality outside of our direct experience. Ashley Hay meets an esteemed line-up of Festival favourites for an entertaining discussion about the many different ways that reading enriches our lives. Join Pulitzer Prize–winning Junot Díaz, celebrated memoirist Tara Westover, founder of Well Read Black Girl Glory Edim, and renowned author and historian Stuart Kells as they share their unique perspectives on how books have shaped their lives and why literature remains an empowering force in the world today.

Junot Díaz (International)

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Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist and Islandborn, a picture-book for young readers. A graduate of Rutgers College, Junot is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT.

Tara Westover (International)

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Tara Westover was born the youngest of seven children in rural Idaho. Raised by Mormon survivalist parents, she grew up preparing for the End of Days—she spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. Her father opposed public education, so she was never put in school. She had no birth certificate, medical records, or formal education until the age of sixteen, when she decided to educate herself. She was admitted to Brigham Young University and upon graduation was awarded a Gates Cambridge Fellowship to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she pursued and MPhil in intellectual history and political thought. She received her PhD in the same subject from Cambridge in 2014. Her first book, Educated, is a tale of the transformative power of education. It is also a story of fierce family loyalty, and the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties.

Stuart Kells (Australian)

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Stuart Kells is an author and book-trade historian. His 2015 book, Penguin and the Lane Brothers, won the Ashurst Business Literature Prize. An authority on rare books, he has written and published on many aspects of print culture and the book world. His next book, about Shakespeare’s library, will be published in 2018. His most recent book is The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders.

Glory Edim (International)

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Glory Okon Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, an online book club turned literary festival that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood. Well-Read Black Girl’s mission is to increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers. Brooklyn Magazine and Smart Girls called Glory the “future of reading”. She has worked as a creative strategist for over 10 years at start-ups and cultural institutions, including Kickstarter, the New York Foundation for the Arts and The Webby Awards. Her first book, Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves is an anthology of essays by high-profile black female writers, including Zinzi Clemmons, Morgan Jerkins, and Tayari Jones, and will be published in 2018.

Ashley Hay (Australian)

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Ashley Hay's latest novel is A Hundred Small Lessons. Her earlier work has won accolades in Australia and abroad, most recently the 2016 Bragg UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing. She has been longlisted for awards including the Miles Franklin and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and shortlisted for awards including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Kibble. Her previous novel, The Railwayman's Wife, received the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies' Colin Roderick Award, and People's Choice at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. It was published in the UK, the US and in translation.