Support a South Asian writer: Sydney and Brisbane Writers Fest

This year’s Sydney and Brisbane Writers Festivals boast bountiful South Asian offerings that will get your pages turning!

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It’s the time of year where we’d rather not be out and about in the freezing weather (or at least, the paltry 11 degrees Celsius that Brizzie sometimes drops to at night).

In May and June, there’s nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a cuppa and a good book by a South Asian writer, and if you’re after your next big page-turner, look no further than what’s at this year’s Sydney and Brisbane Writers Festivals.

If you’re brave enough to venture out into the cold though, there’s plenty of great talks and workshops featuring world-class South Asian writers happening in Sydney, from Monday 20 May to Sun 26 May, and Brisbane from 30 May to 2 June.

Here’s our round-up of what’s on offer…

Abraham Verghese – SWF

Roanna Gonsalves and Abraham Verghese.
Roanna Gonsalves and Abraham Verghese. (Source: SWF)

Physician and Writer Abraham Verghese pens an ode to intergenerational ripples in The Covenant of Water following the journey of a young Keralan girl as she grows into matriarch Big Ammachi whilst facing numerous drowning deaths in her family.

Verghese is bringing this New York Times bestseller in discussion with fellow South Asian and Creative Writing lecturer at UNSW, Roanna Gonsalves at Carriageworks on May 23, and he will also appear at ‘Bringing the Past to Life’ at Carriageworks on May 25.

Dr Ahona Guha – SWF and BWF

Dr Ahona Guha
Dr Ahona Guha (Source: SWF)

Dr Ahona Guha is a Melbourne based clinical psychologist whose popularity is steadily growing, with works appearing in The Age, The Guardian, ABC, SBS, The Saturday Paper, Griffith Review and Breathe Magazine. Her latest book, Life Skills for a Broken World has been hailed as “grounding, consoling, and so practical” so don’t miss her Curiosity Lecture on May 25 at Carriageworks.

Dr Guha will also be in conversation with the Griffith Review at Carriageworks on May 26, and at the State Library of Queensland on June 1, and for those in Brisbane, she’ll share her knowledge of trauma informed interview practices in a workshop on June 2.

Balli Kaur Jaswal – SWF and BWF

Balli Kaur Jaswal
Balli Kaur Jaswal (Source: SWF)

The author of international bestseller Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows will appear on a whole host of panel discussions to talk about her latest work, Now You See Us a razor-sharp social satire on the Singaporean elite through the eyes of their female domestic worker.

Catch her at Carriageworks on ‘Singaporean Storytellers’ (May 23) alongside South Asian writer Shivram Gopinath, and the  ‘Secret Lives of Women ‘ (May 23), and then at the State Library of Queensland on June 1 for the  ‘On The Basis of Sex’,  ‘Murder Mystery’ and  ‘Eat The Rich’ panel events.

Dona Samson Zappone, Neera Handa and Jai Thangavel – SWF

Auburn Writers and Poets
Auburn Writers and Poets (Source: SWF)

Children’s author Dona Samson Zappone, English literature academic Neera Handa, and photographer Jai Thangavel return as part of the famed Western Sydney group, Auburn Poets and Writers, a CALD body of writers who have been meeting monthly since 2006.

‘Living in the Air’ sees the collective interrogate the absurdity of technology and AI via their unique, multilingual format, through poems, songs and sounds.

Dinuka McKenzie – SWF and BWF

Dinuka McKenzie
Dinuka McKenzie (Source: SWF)

The author of the Detective Kate Miles series and winner of the 2020 HarperCollins Australia Banjo prize, Dinuka McKenzie is bringing the latest book in the acclaimed crime series, Tipping Point to Queensland’s State Library.

She will join fellow crime fiction aficionados on the ‘Hard Boiled’ panel on May 31, and the  ‘Suspicious Circumstances’ panel on June 1, and be in discussion with another South Asian writer Sulari Gentill on the Aussie Crime All-Stars panel at Carriageworks on May 23.

Indira Naidoo – SWF

Indira Naidoo
Indira Naidoo (Source: SWF)

The famed Australian broadcaster and host of ABC’s Compass will be part of one of the festival’s keynote events, chatting with Bonnie Garmus, author or smash-hit Lessons in Chemistry.

Janaka Malwatta – BWF

Janaka Malwatta
Janaka Malwatta (Source: SWF)

Sri Lankan born poet Janaka Malwatta, winner of multiple awards for his collection blackbirds don’t mate with starlings, will join Nam Le at the State Library of Queensland to discuss his anthology, 36 Ways of Writing a Vietnamese Poem.

Laila Thaker – BWF

Laila Thaker
Laila Thaker (Source: SWF)

Torres Strait Islander and Indian performer and writer Laila Thaker, known for roles in Wentworth and My Life Is Murder, will join three panels being held on June 1 at the State Library of Queensland to discuss bringing First Nations stories to screens and stages:  ‘From Pipe Dreams to Big Screen’,  ‘Pushing Boundaries’ and  ‘Legends of the Playhouse’.

Sarah Malik – SWF

Sarah Malik
Sarah Malik (Source: SWF)

Walkley award winning investigative journalist Sarah Malik will be sitting down with the inaugural Parramatta Laureate in Literature, Yumna Kassab, for an unmissable conversation on writing in Western Sydney and how the city has shaped writing over the years.

Shankari Chandran – SWF

Shankari Chandran
Shankari Chandran (Source: Instagram)

Shankari Chandran has been the talk of the town since her Miles Franklin Literary Award win for Chai Time in Cinnamon Gardens.

Her latest work Safe Haven sees her dip into her background as a lawyer to tell the story of a refugee facing deportation for speaking truth to power, and tickets are disappearing fast for her conversations with Viet Thanh Nguyen and Yumna Kassab, both acclaimed writers of refugee stories. There’s still hope if you miss out; catch her live on ABC Radio Sydney’s Drive at 6pm on May 24.

Satyajit Das – BWF

Satyajit Das
Satyajit Das (Source: BWF)

Banker turned environmentalist Satyajit Das will appear on two intriguing panels at the State Library of Queensland, exploring nature and its preservation: Environmental Insights on June 1, and Nature as Timekeeper on June 2.

Shivram Gopinath – SWF and BWF

Shivram Gopinath
Shivram Gopinath (Source: SWF)

Hailing from Chennai, Singapore-based writer and poet Shivram Gopinath will join numerous panels ahead of his upcoming book Dey:  ‘Singapore Storytellers’ and  ‘Speak the Light at Carriageworks, and  ‘Machismo ‘ and ‘Poetry Salon: All I Have is a Voice’ at the Queensland State Library.

Sita Walker – BWF

Sita Walker and book
Sita Walker (Source: BWF)

Brisbane based English and Literature teacher Sita Walker’s debut memoir, The God of No Good traverses decades and continents to sketch her matrilineal history, receiving the Courier Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year Award last year.

She’ll be part of  ‘Temptations’, June 2 at the State Library of Queensland to discuss ancestral spirits and the definition of the soul with some of the country’s finest metaphysical writers.

Sulari Gentill – SWF and BWF

Sulari Gentill
Sulari Gentill (Source: SWF)

Award-winning author of the Rowland Sinclair Mysteries is back with The Mystery Writer a thriller about an aspiring writer who falls for her literary idol, only to find him murdered…never meet your heroes.

She’ll be at the State Library of Queensland for ‘Page Turner’ (June 1) and  ‘Crime Time ‘ (June 2), and join fellow South Asian writer of crime Dinuka McKenzie for  ‘Aussie Crime All-Stars’ (May 23) at Carriageworks.

The Sydney Writers Festival will run from May 20 – 26, and The Brisbane Writers Festival from May 30 – June 2.

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Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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