Extraordinary lives, extraordinary stories to tell… the memoirists at this year’s Festival engage with profound, important, and thought-provoking issues – all through a personal lens. Meet five writers joining us this year that you won’t want to miss.
Latest book: Songs of a War Boy
Conscripted at age seven into Sudan’s brutal civil war, Deng Adut was groomed to handle an AK47 instead of a pencil. He escaped bullets, atrocities and near starvation to come to Australia as a refugee at age 14 — having never been to school, he taught himself to read and write, and learned to speak English by watching The Wiggles. He went on to win a scholarship to study law in 2005, and today is a lawyer, refugee advocate and NSW Australian of the Year who gave the 2016 Australia Day Address. Deng confronts trauma and the power of empathy though his extraordinary life story. Songs of a War Boy, written with Ben Mckelvey, is a poignant account of persecution and suffering – and the redemptive powers of compassion.
This is your chance to… engage with important and confronting subjects of war, trauma and refuge, guided by an inspirational author who has been at the centre of all three.
Deng says: "The only real difference between you and me was that I had to fight to become Australian."
Latest book: In the Darkroom
When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Susan Faludi learned her estranged 76-year-old father had undergone gender confirmation surgery, she began to examine the meaning of identity. Author of critical and commercially successful non-fiction including Backlash, Susan's latest work In the Darkroom brings her own personal experience to bear on urgent questions of gender, family and heritage. The book won the 2016 Kirkus Prize for Non-Fiction and was named one of the top ten best books of the year by The New York Times.
This is your chance to... hear a brilliant thinker on some of the most important questions of identity facing us today.
Susan says: “The camera only documented what had been there all along, a marriage whose foundations, constructed from the cheap materials of convention and fear, had been buckling for years.”
Latest book: A Long Way Home
It's been a big year for Indian-born, Hobart-based Saroo Brierley. His extraordinary autobiographical account A Long Way Home, published in 2014, reached audiences around the world with the award-winning movie adaptation, Lion. Separated from his family in India at age five, the book recounts Saroo’s adoption by an Australian couple, and his Internet-powered search for his long-lost family.
This is your chance to... meet the writer and enthralling public speaker, and go beyond the attention-grabbing headlines. This is your chance to: meet the mind behind the moving story.
Saroo says: “My return seemed to inspire and energise the neighborhood, as though it was evidence that the hard luck of life did not have to rule you. Sometimes miracles do happen.”
Latest book: The Return
When Hisham Matar was 19, his father was kidnapped in Cairo and imprisoned in Gaddafi’s Libya. Hisham never saw him again. His memoir The Return is part thrilling detective story investigating his father’s fate, part unflinching personal account of tragic loss and the legacy of corrupt power. It won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography, and author Peter Carey called the book ‘a triumph of art over tyranny’.
This is a chance to… hear a multi-prize-winning and powerful voice on politics, power and art as resistance.
Hisham says: “And I remember this man who never ran out of poems telling me once that ‘knowing a book by heart is like carrying a house inside your chest.’”
Latest book: I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This
Brooklyn-based writer Nadja Spiegelman published three graphic novels for children as well as launching Resist!, a publication of political comics and graphics by mostly female artists, before penning her non-fiction debut I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This. As the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, Art Spiegelman, and Françoise Mouly, the art editor of The New Yorker, Nadja comes from a strong literary and creative family – and one used to documenting each other’s lives. The resulting memoir is a rich, candid, and thoughtful mediation on the ways we connect and divide with family.
This is a chance to… explore the intense complexity of relationships, whether between mothers and daughters or fact and fiction.
Nadja says: “I saw a pattern forming, like a series of skipping stones that sent ripples through the generations: all the granddaughters and grandmothers who loved each other, all the mothers left stranded in between.”