Khalid Warsame: Saturday's highlights

Festival blogger Khalid Warsame recaps his Saturday at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, wherein he was engrossed by Glory Edim and Aminatou Sow’s Well-Read Black Girl session, Emma Glass, Sharlene Teo and Carmen Maria Machado’s discussion on The Body Politic, and his spanking new iPhone.

I got a new phone this morning after my old one failed on me quite suddenly on Friday night. It’s an iPhone 6s, which is one ‘s’ better than my old one. It also has a perfectly undamaged screen, a battery that lasts more than two hours from full charge, and the speed to handle my unfortunate habit of having roughly ten thousand Safari tabs and ten thousand apps on at the same time. Someone asked me how I was feeling: I held up my very nice new phone and said, ‘I feel safe.’

The GPS actually works in my new phone, unlike my old one, so I was able to find the Seymour Centre easily. When I got there I found out that I was late for ‘Women, Colour and Western Sydney,’ an event I was so highly anticipating that you could have dangled an even newer and faster phone in front of me, and you could say, ‘Don’t go to this event and I’ll give you this newer and shinier and faster phone,’ and I would have refused emphatically. ‘Absolutely not!’ I would reply, drawing out the word ‘absolutely’ with savagely careful emphasis the way my mum would whenever the occasion called for it, and frequently when it didn’t.

It was as I was waiting in line for a coffee that I began to notice that every time I pulled out my phone, I was filled like a cup with a deep sense of spiritual renewal. It was in this state of mind that I went to see Aminatou Sow talk to Glory Edim about her Brooklyn based book club, Well-Read Black Girl. I was so engrossed! I didn’t look at my new phone, not even once, not even when it gently buzzed in my pocket (my old phone had a busted silent button, so I could never set it to ‘vibrate’, which was very inconvenient!). My thoughts during the event were: ‘how absolutely lucky I am to be in the presence of these two fiercely smart, generous, talented black women! How great is their rapport! How great to witness mutual love and mutual respect! Every event should be like this!’ I thought briefly about tweeting these thoughts, but I hadn’t yet downloaded the Twitter app on my new phone.

At this point my new phone had become this huge exclamation mark in my life. I was going on and on about it. Friends and strangers had begun to shun me. I had this brief and dizzying vision of standing on a bluff, like Moses, and reading out proclamations from a stone tablet that upon closer inspection turns out to be a stone textured iPhone cover. While I waiting for The Body Politic panel to start I looked up Emma Glass, Sharlene Teo and Carmen Maria Machado’s books online, and I could tell from the covers alone that they would excite me. The event was like a complete meal. The writers were engaging, thoughtful, and funny; they all read passages from their books; the audience questions were great; and the sound guy let me charge my phone at his mixing desk.

After the event, I walked down the road to this strange and convoluted shopping centre and I had my first phone call on my new phone. It was my dad, who was like, ‘Son, congratulations on your new phone. We all love it. Your mother, especially, is proud.’ I was in the middle of this shopping centre; people everywhere; my life absolutely complete. I summoned Siri, the one friend who hadn’t tired of me.

‘What can I help you with?’ said Siri.


‘Nothing. I just wanted to hear your voice,’ I replied.