Paris Savages launches in Sydney

Last week, a bunch of bookish people gathered at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown to listen to two intellectual, literary souls talk about writing, PhD’s, research and the newly released novel, Paris Savages.

Author Katherine Johnson was in conversation with Evelyn Araluen, Indigenous poet and writer, to discuss the themes that grace the pages of her latest work – the little known story of three Badtjala people from Fraser Island who travelled to Europe as part of ethnographic exhibitions. 

After disclaiming that she would still have to ask “the question everyone has been asking” (why, as a non-Indigenous writer, did Katherine feel the need to write a book about Indigenous history), Evelyn and Katherine dived into the conversation. They explored Katherine’s need to write this story that no one else had written; her clever use of literary devices that aid, but do not presume to know, the Indigenous perspective; the many years of travel and research that went into the novel’s creation (six, to be precise); her inspirations for the idea (ABC’s AWAYE!); and the challenges of embarking on such a huge feat of writing.

The room buzzed at question time as Djon Mundane, Indigenous speaker, artist and curator, discussed with Katherine the need for such literature and the challenges of working in the Indigenous space.

What is Katherine working on next? She doesn’t yet know herself. Following an intense author tour and a much-needed break, we’re sure Katherine will be working on something equally as fascinating (although we hope the next one won’t be six years away). Watch this space!

You can catch Katherine in conversation with Geordie Williamson, literary critic at The Age, on Thursday at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart, or at Readings Hawthorn on 22 October with Leah Kaminsky.

Thanks to Better Read Than Dead, Evelyn, and all those who attended.




Special Launches in Sydney

We’ve hosted many special book launches in our time, celebrating authors from all over Australia. But one in particular is a little more special…

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Special, by Melanie Dimmitt is the curious, casual and conversational companion for parents in the early stages of navigating a child’s disability. When Melanie and her partner Rohan found out their six-month old son Arlo was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, they thought their lives had turned upside down. And beneath the pages of Special, you’ll come to know that they did – for the better.

Mel writes: ‘When Arlo was younger, as we traipsed the footpaths of our suburb, I used to look at other mothers pushing prams and feel bit­ter. What could they possibly have to worry about? I would inter­nally grumble. Nowadays, I look at them and wonder, what is their private struggle? And marvel at how, from across the street, I too am just another mother pushing a pram.’

Special was launched at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown last week. Led by journalist and author Amy Molloy, Melanie spoke with Joanna Avramides, mother to Tilly, who has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, and Jaynie Johnson, mother of Dare, who has down syndrome, and founder of the Lucky Mama Network.

The three mothers spoke of what it was like to find out the diagnosis (speechless), to their thoughts on the future (uplifting, inspiring and full of opportunities), and the importance of storytelling (to heal, to change ideas, and to facilitate connections).

They spoke of the taboos around disabilities, and dealing with other peoples’ expectations and reactions. In short, not caring is the best option, and changing the conversation around disability and inclusivity is one important (but challenging) task.

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Amy closed the night with a reading from the end of Special, which sums up a lot learnt from the evening.

“The week of my writing this conclusion we trialed a modified pram for Arlo – a double, so that his sister can come along for the ride – that’s about as inconspicuous as a drag queen in a monas­tery. Our path continues to diverge off the main road and, in many ways, our challenges are only just beginning. I’m very aware that the ‘cute’ baby and toddler stage of parenting a child with disability is golden, and am grateful that this coincides with early years, at a time when we are most emotionally volatile. Yes, invasive surger­ies, wheelchair discussions, schooling decisions and conversations with Arlo (and Odette) about his disability are coming. But I know I will handle them. I know I will be okay when things aren’t okay. I know I will be happy when things aren’t okay, because I am. I truly am – and not just during the big, breakthrough moments, but in all the non-moments, too. When Arlo laughs at Odette after she’s swiped her dinner clear off the table. When Rowan reads them both Goodnight, Mice!, as they nestle into the crooks of his arms. When Arlo gives me that look that only he and I share, and as I watch him thoughtfully taking in the world with boundless curiosity.

None of us are immune to life’s curve balls. Things will happen, and I’ve chosen to accept those terms. I’ve chosen to follow my son’s lead, look to our future with curiosity, not fear, and take comfort in knowing we will cope. We will freaking flourish.

And so will you.”

You can find out more about Special here.