Man Booker Prize-winner Paul Beatty (The Sellout) and award-winning author Roxane Gay (Difficult Women) both use humour to write about the trauma of history. According to The Guardian, The Sellout ‘has a joke-per-line ratio that a comedy writer would kill for, but the humor is nowhere near safe’. Roxane’s Difficult Women is a collection of stories of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection. They talk to Michael Williams about using bleak, provocative humour with purpose. 

Roxane Gay (International)

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Roxane Gay is the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, the New York Times bestselling Bad Feminist, Difficult Women and Hunger (forthcoming in 2017). Her writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Short Stories, Best Sex Writing, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, and many others. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and is also the author of World of Wakanda for Marvel. Roxane was the 2015 winner of the PEN Center USA Freedom to Write award, a prize given to those who write in the face of extreme adversity or demonstrate exceptional courage defending free expression.

Paul Beatty (International)

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In 2016 Paul Beatty became the first American to be awarded the Man Booker Prize. His winning book, The Sellout, also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. The darkly comic novel chronicles an urban farmer who tries to spearhead a revitalisation of slavery and segregation in a fictional Los Angeles neighbourhood. Beatty began his career as a poet before turning his hand to fiction with White Boy Shuffle, followed by Tuff and Slumberland. He is also the editor of Hokum, an anthology of African-American humour.

Michael Williams (Australian)

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Michael Williams is the director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne. For 2015-2016 he hosted Blueprint for Living on RN, and he remains a regular guest on ABC radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing and has written extensively for publications including The Guardian Australia, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.