Monday, June 23, 2014

Next Tuesday’s Memoir Club presents a new talent that will change Australia’s contemporary literary landscape. Come be among the first to share in the stories of Michael Mohammed Ahmad, a young Lebanese writer from Western Sydney, whose work of autobiographical fiction offers insight into the life and customs of The Tribe, members of a small Muslim sect who fled to Australia just before the civil war in Lebanon in 1975. Young Bani offers a child’s unflinching yet wise view of the lives of three generations of an extended family who live in Alexandria, The House of Adam:

“I was only seven when this happened but it always feels like right now. My Tayta raises her blouse and shows me her stomach. It’s so big it rests on her large thighs. Her skin is golden and soft, and sometimes, when she holds me close and kisses me, her body feels like a plastic bag filled with warm water. She only has a few teeth left and she smiles between them. Tayta’s hands are like wood because she has arthritis. They’re thick and brown and dry and she can hardly move them, except for when she’s preparing aa-jeen, which is what we call dough. Tayta places both her hands under the base of her stomach and she lifts. She reveals to me eleven scars that look like train tracks running in different directions just below her belly button. She points to one and she says in Arabic, ‘This is your father, Jibreel.” Then she points to another and says, ‘Here is your Uncle Ehud.’ Then she points to another and another and another, and she lists her other three sons; ‘Osama, Ibrahim, and the youngest, Ali.’ Then my Tayta points at two more scars and says, ‘Here are the girls, Amina and Yasmine…’ She hesitates before she names the scar that belongs to the third daughter. She says, ‘This is Mariam.’ Then my grandmother’s smile withers and her few teeth look like they might fall out when she points at the final three scars and says, ‘Here are Firaz, Khalil and Shahrazat… they died before we left Lebanon.’"

Tuesday  24 June 2014


Randwick Literary Institute

RSVP Betty by 22 June: 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad 

in conversation with Beth Yahp

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is proudly from Western Sydney and has been engaged in nurturing and producing writing and media from and about Western Sydney via Westside Publications and the Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement. He is a Lebanese-Australian from a Muslim-Alawite background and his first book, The Tribe (Giramondo, 2014), is an incredibly detailed, memoir novel based on the familial world of his Western Sydney childhood.

Leading anthropologist Ghassan Hage described The Tribe as ‘a significant and astonishing novel that takes us inside the cultural world of the Adam family, a socio-economically disadvantaged Australian Syro-Lebanese Alawite extended family from Sydney and Melbourne… The book is in the best tradition of ethnographic novels: it generously offers us access to a unique cultural world and describes to us some of its features, warts and all, with remarkable details.'

Ground-breaking, funny, intricate and moving, The Tribe opens up Arab-Australian lives far from the racist abstractions dished out by mainstream media. Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an exciting new literary talent, whom the Memoir Club is honoured to present this month. 

Do come and share in his stories of our multi-faceted culture and city!

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is director of SWEATSHOP: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. He was chief editor of Westside Publications from 2005 to 2012. His essays and stories have appeared in the Guardian, HEAT, Seizure, SBS Online, The Lifted Brow and Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia (Allen & Unwin). In 2012 he received the Australia Council Kirk Robson Award in recognition of his leadership in community arts and cultural development He is currently a doctoral candidate in the University of Western Sydney Writing and Society Research Centre.

Beth Yahp is the author of a novel, various short fiction and non-fiction, and works for the stage and radio. Beth was recently awarded a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney, for a travel memoir which is due to be published by Random House Australia in 2015. Beth currently teaches in the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney.

About the Memoir Club: a meeting place for readers and writers 

 Last Tuesday of every month (29 July, 26 August etc.). 

6.00 - 9.00 PM (come at 5.30 PM to help set up and have a cuppa before the program starts at 6.00 PM)

 The Randwick Literary Institute, 60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Tel: 02-9398 5203 (for directions and venue info) Street parking available. Clovelly bus 339 on the doorstep. For how to get there, see:

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