While long weekends offer a rare chance to cosy up with a cup of tea and make a nice big dent in that reading wish list, they do however pose one very thorny question: Where to begin? To ease the decision paralysis, we've compiled a list of the most exciting new books that the Sydney Writers' Festival team will be sinking their teeth into over the long weekend.
We hope you enjoy them as much as we're about to!
how to make a basket by Jazz Money
“Watching these Black artists sing / their defiant songs, I am left with a joyous sense / of culture in the making.”
Jazz Money’s award-winning debut poetry collection, how to make a basket, puts the colony under the microscope as it dissects and examines this nation through reflections on place and belonging. Interwoven with both Wiradjuri and English, Jazz's poetry celebrates Blak and queer love while forming a lyrical protest on this colonial state.
"Poetry sings and calls to us on every page, within each line, sometimes quietly, but also with roaring energy," says Tony Birch. "I adore this book, and will cherish having learned from Jazz Money that it takes true love to make a great poem."
Watch Jazz in the video below.
Growing up in Country Australia, edited by Rick Morton
“Most of what we think about outback Australia hasn’t really been updated since the bush poets. I wanted to get a modern reading, ‘what is country life really like now?’”
The reality of life outside of our cities is one lived by roughly a third of Australians. In spite of this, notions of country Australia are all too often based on generalisations and misapprehensions.
Growing up in Country Australia gathers some of the country’s newest and most celebrated authors from diverse backgrounds and experiences to deliver a modern telling of rural, regional and remote life in Australia. Edited by the award-winning journalist and author Rick Morton, this anthology is the latest instalment in Black Inc’s beloved ‘Growing Up’ series.
Traversing the lived-experience of nearly 40 writers, Growing up in Country Australia tells of the many joys of life out bush; a childhood of freedom, seemingly never-ending space, adventure and proximity to nature. It does not, however, shy away from stories of the compounding hardships of drought, fires, disease and isolation.
Be surprised, moved and entertained by this rich tapestry of Australian voices. This is country Australia as you’ve never seen it before.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
“It's a spiky comedy of manners that shines a light on white millennial trans femme culture in 2010s New York – think Girls or Fleabag, only trans and intersectional, sharpened by arch asides reminiscent of Jane Austen.”
Detransition, Baby tells the story of three people who do not often see the spotlight in literature: Reese, a trans woman; Ames, who has detransitioned; and Katrina, a Chinese-Jewish cisgender woman. It starts with an unlikely offer: creating a family – together – after Katrina becomes pregnant with Ames. Against this backdrop, a thrillingly original and deeply moving story emerges, which deftly explores both the personal and the political within the queer experience.
Peters' novel has been widely acclaimed. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by more than 20 publications, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, was a Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, National Book Critics Circle Award and the Gotham Book Prize, as well as being longlisted for the Women's Prize, making Torrey the first trans woman to be nominated.
"Peters is less interested in resolution than in the continual project of reckoning with ourselves," says Crispin Long in their New Yorker review of Detransition, Baby. "She confronts the unruliness of our desires, and our vitality as we struggle within their limits."
Nina Simone's Gum by Warren Ellis
“By the gravity of mutual assent, Nina Simone's Gum has become a heavenly body defining Ellis' circle of friends, new and old, all caught in a cosmic field of rapture.”
Twenty three years ago, Warren Ellis snuck onto a stage that Nina Simone had just recently left and took a piece of her chewed gum from its perch on the piano, thus putting into play a chain of events that would deepen his understanding of his own childhood and his relationship to found objects.
This autobiographical exploration from one of the greatest musicians of our time takes something seemingly insignificant as the catalyst for one man’s understanding of himself and those around him. Lifelong friend and bandmate, Nick Cave, in his introduction describes Warren's split second decision as the creation of a “genuine religious artefact.”
We recommend reading along with Ghosteen in the background.
The Most Important Job In The World, Gina Rushton
“I am so glad this book exists and I am glad I read it.”
A career, a role, a legacy, a climate disaster and an expectation. Award-winning journalist and editor Gina Rushton’s literary debut, The Most Important Job In The World deftly disentangles the competing forces that draw women towards and away from motherhood.
Reckoning with the decision herself with little time to spare, Gina wrote the book she needed to answer the deceptively complex question, ‘Should we become parents?’. The result is a universal yet deeply personal work which interrogates these contradictory desires.
Capturing the angst and uncertainty of her generation, Gina cuts through the noise to challenge the mythologies of parenthood, and discusses bringing life into a seemingly broken world, and the perception of motherhood as a career-ending pursuit.
"Grounded in Rushton's years of frontline reporting on reproductive access, this book reflects on both the politics and philosophies underpinning parenthood," said Bri Lee (Eggshell Skull). "It challenged some of my deeply ingrained presumptions about the career-family binary, and Rushton is unafraid to sit with ambivalence. Contraception, legacy, loss, climate change...it's all here. I am so glad this book exists and I am glad I read it."
See them all at the Festival in May! Learn more about each event and buy tickets:
How to Make a Basket: Weaving Words for Country