James Baldwin famously wrote, “perhaps home is not a place, but an irrevocable condition.” Is it possible to sever all ties with one’s birthplace and start afresh in a new land, or will – as Baldwin suggests – the past follow us everywhere we go, like a shadow? Christos Tsiolkas poses the question to acclaimed authors Melanie Cheng (a guest Festival curator and author of Room for a Stranger), Moreno Giovannoni (The Fireflies of Autumn) and Ling Ma (Severance), who each explore themes of immigration and identity through their work.

Moreno Giovannoni (Australian)

Giovannoni, Moreno c David Patston.jpg

Moreno Giovannoni was born in San Ginese, and grew up on a tobacco farm in north-east Victoria. He is a freelance translator, and his writing has been published in Island, Southerly and The Saturday Age and his essays 'The Percheron' and 'A Short History of the Italian Language' were included in The Best Australian Essays in 2014 and 2017. Moreno was the inaugural winner of the Deborah Cass Prize. The Fireflies of Autumn is his first book.

Melanie Cheng (Australian)

Cheng, Melanie c Rani Chahal.jpg

Melanie Cheng is a writer and general practitioner. Of Chinese-Australian heritage, she was born in Adelaide, grew up in Hong Kong and now lives in Melbourne. Her short story collection Australia Day won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Indie Book Award for debut fiction and the 2017 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction. Room for a Stranger is her second book.

Ling Ma (International)

Ma, Ling c Anjali Pinto.JPG

Ling Ma is author of the novel Severance, which received the Kirkus Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of 2018. Her work has appeared in Granta, Playboy, Vice, Ninth Letter, ACM and others. She holds an MFA from Cornell University and an AB from the University of Chicago, where she currently serves as Assistant Professor of Practice in the Arts. “Severance is the best work of fiction I’ve read yet about the millennial condition―the alienation and cruelty that comes with being a functional person under advanced global capitalism, and the compromised pleasures and irreducibly personal meaning to be found in claiming some stability in a terrible world.” ― Jia Tolentino, New Yorker staff writer.

Christos Tsiolkas (Australian)

Tsiolkas, Christos.jpg

Christos Tsiolkas is the author of the novels Loaded (filmed as Head On by Ana Kokkinos), The Jesus Man, Dead Europe (adapted into a film by Tony Krawitz), The Slap and Barracuda (both adapted as mini-series by Matchbox Films and the ABC). He has also co-authored the dialogue, Jump Cuts: An Autobiography with Sasha Soldatow. His short story collection, Merciless Gods was published in 2016 and adapted into a stage show by Little Ones Theatre Co. His latest book is a monograph on Patrick White for the Writers on Writers series. Christos is also a scriptwriter, playwright and essayist, and the film critic for The Saturday Paper.