Do you only read non-fiction? Or are you always on the look-out for the best new voices…or the latest memoir? Are you a devout true crime reader or just want to escape to science fiction? Then perhaps you’ve been perusing the more-than-400 2020 Festival authors for your next read, scouring for your most loved genre.
To make things a little easier, we’re spotlighting some of our favourite authors, genre by genre. Fall in love with a new style or stay in your literary safe place – it’s up to you! This week, we get In Deep Lit with our favourite political reads from some of the Festival's standout authors.
In these uncertain times people are looking for the writers they can trust, and the leaders who will stand up for those without a voice. In what is frequently being called ‘The Disinformation Age’ – where new technologies are being used to mislead and silence dissenters – writers are using the power of the written word to fight back. Three fresh political voices making waves are Joshua Wong, the face of the Hong Kong protests; Thomas Mayor, a Torres Strait Islander activist campaigning to advance the rights of Indigenous Australians; and Nesrine Malik, a journalist making a stand against harmful political narratives.
While you might not be able to hear from these writers on our stages this year, you can still read their work. We’ll continue to highlight the writers and activists within our 2020 Program whose voices are standing out in this time of information overload.
When Joshua Wong was just 14 years old, he founded Scholarism, a Hong Kong–based student activist group. Its aim was to send a pro-democracy message to Beijing, through the means of wide-scale protests, boycotts and sit-ins. The group went on to successfully protest against the enforcement of Chinese National Education in Hong Kong.
Unflinchingly, Joshua has put his life on the line to fight for Hong Kong’s self-determination. It’s difficult to name another individual who by their mid-twenties has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; named by TIME, Fortune and Forbes as one of the world’s most influential leaders; been arrested and jailed; written a book (Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now); and been the subject of a major Netflix documentary. The scale of Joshua’s impact is impossible to quantify, but his image has come to symbolise the power one voice has to magnify millions of others.
“When we stay silent, no one is safe. When we free our speech, our voice becomes one.”
Late last year, The New Yorker wrote that Joshua has “evolved from defiant teenage protester to international lobbyist and emerging politician”. Now Secretary-General of Demosistō, a pro-democracy organisation, Joshua is making it known that he’s in this for the long haul – demonstrating that the key to effective activism is unwavering commitment to the fight for freedom.
Unfree Speech is available from Gleebooks. Gleebooks is currently offering free delivery to all addresses within the Inner West Council and City of Sydney Council boundary areas, and free delivery for orders totalling $50 or more to other locations across Australia.
It wasn’t until Thomas Mayor became a union official for the Maritime Union of Australia in his early 30s that he gained the skills of negotiation and organisation, which would become central in his work to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples.
A Torres Strait Islander man born on Larrakia country in Darwin, Thomas is one of the first ever Torres Strait Islander authors to have a book published for the general trade. His book Finding the Heart of the Nation details his tireless journey campaigning across Australia for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
"Thomas’s compelling work is full of Australian Indigenous voices that should be heard. Read this book, listen to them, and take action."
Since the First Nations Constitutional Convention at Uluru, Thomas has been entrusted to carry the sacred canvas of the Uluru Statement from the Heart around Australia. His 18-month journey garnered major support for the principles it outlines.
Thomas’ book features interviews with 20 key figures in the fight for Indigenous rights. These include Teela Reid, a proud Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, lawyer and activist whose piece for Griffith Review ‘2020: The year of reckoning, not reconciliation’ calls for Australia to reckon with its past this year – 250 years after the invasion of Indigenous lands.
Thomas Mayor’s book gives readers the privilege to listen to some of the most important conversations in Australian at present.
Finding the Heart of the Nation is available from Gleebooks. Gleebooks is currently offering free delivery to all addresses within the Inner West Council and City of Sydney Council boundary areas, and free delivery for orders totalling $50 or more to other locations across Australia.
Nesrine Malik is a British-Sudanese author, columnist and feature writer for Guardian UK. She was born in Sudan and grew up in Kenya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Her writing primarily focuses on the intersection between race, class, gender, religion and politics.
Nesrine’s work makes a stand against Islamophobia. It adds nuance to polarising ‘them and us’ narratives, which she says politicians capitalise on. Nesrine has been described as having an “excellent nose for hypocrisy and doublethink, the crude prejudices and bigotry that underlie political decisions”. Now more than ever, as we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, it’s crucial to be able to distinguish fact from fiction.
“Individually and collectively, we need stories. It is a universal impulse."
“Individually and collectively, we need stories,” says Nesrine. “It is a universal impulse. We need some galvanising, sense-making framework, a narrative, in order to instil order and a sense of purpose in our lives. Some myths are not only useful, they are necessary. All political orders are based on useful fictions which has allowed groups of humans, from ancient Mesopotamia through to the Roman Empire and modern capitalist societies, to cooperate in numbers far beyond the scope of any other species. Every social unit, from the family to the nation state, functions on the basis of mythology, stories that set them apart from others.”
Nesrine’s first book, We Need New Stories: Challenging the Toxic Myths Behind Our Age of Discontent, has been described as a solid work of political science or political philosophy that expertly dissects the six key myths in the West that are leading to a political crisis. These six myths are: the myth of gender equality; the myth of a political correctness crisis; the myth of a free speech crisis; the myth of damaging identity politics; the myth of virtuous origin; and the myth of the reliable narrator.
Nesrine’s compelling analysis has the power to motivate us to seek new narrators and pick apart so many of the toxic myths that we’re continuously fed for political purposes.
We Need New Stories is available from Gleebooks. Gleebooks is currently offering free delivery to all addresses within the Inner West Council and City of Sydney Council boundary areas, and free delivery for orders totalling $50 or more to other locations across Australia.