YA offers a chance for authors to create a broader picture of a ‘typical’ teenager. Is it enough to include diverse voices if their only role is to prop up the hero? Why does the quiet kid always need to be saved by a cool romantic interest? Youth Curator Rameen Hayat speaks to Tamar Chnorhokian, Sarah Ayoub, Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Patrick Ness about diversity and tokenism in YA fiction. Programmed with SWF Youth Curators.

Supported by the City of Parramatta and the Department of Family and Community Services

Sarah Ayoub (Australian)

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Sarah Ayoub is a freelance journalist and author. Her writing has appeared in publications including The Guardian, The Sun-Herald, and the Sunday Telegraph. Sarah teaches journalism at The University of Notre Dame in Sydney, where she is currently researching the representations of culturally diverse female teens in Australian Young Adult literature. She is the author of Hate is Such a Strong Word and The Yearbook Committee and is passionate about empowering young people to see the value in their own personal stories. In 2018 Sarah has been a Mentor for the Youth Curators as part of the 2018 All Day YA Program.

Tamar Chnorhokian (Australian)

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Tamar Chnorhokian is Associate Director of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. She completed a communications degree in writing and publishing at the Western Sydney University in 2004. Her debut novel was The Diet Starts on Monday and she has also worked as a columnist, journalist and freelance writer. She is the recipient of the 2016 Copyright Agency, WestWords Western Sydney Emerging Writers’ Fellowship and is currently developing her second work of fiction.

Patrick Ness (International)

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Patrick Ness is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Chaos Walking trilogy and the critically-acclaimed novels A Monster Calls, The Rest of Us Just Live Here and Release. He has won every major prize in children’s fiction, including the Carnegie Medal twice. He’s also written the screenplay for the film of A Monster Calls, now a major motion picture.


Michael Mohammed Ahmad (Australian)

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Michael Mohammed Ahmad is the Director of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. His debut novel, The Tribe, received the 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelists of the Year Award. Mohammed’s latest novel is The Lebs.

Rameen Hayat (Australian)

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Rameen Hayat Malik is an engineering and law student at the University of Sydney who has been active in the Western Sydney Spoken Word poetry circuit. She has been involved in many programs including Real Talk, Youth Week and R.E.S.P.E.C.T programs with support from the Bankstown Poetry Slam.