I am above all a reader, one who has yet to be discouraged by this world of too many words. Reading is what I do best, and I confess that it is my favorite part of my job. Curating a program is a mostly enjoyable challenge, hearing the conversations that happen during the event a delight, but the most enduring pleasure is in the discovery of a new book and the promise that there are always more to come.
Among the novels I’ve most enjoyed in this last year are those by Nigerian born Chika Unigwe. Uniqwe is the author of the often startling and ultimately hopeful On Black Sister’s Street, the story of four African women who sell themselves into the sex trade in search of a better life. In this novel, and the more recent Night Dancer, Unigwe elegantly chronicles the precarious plight of African women.
A recent discovery is Karen Lord, Barbadian speculative fiction novelist. Lord’s debut novel Redemption in Indigo is a haunting and often fantastical retelling of a Senegalese folktale about chaos’ return to earth. As a relative newcomer to speculative fiction, I find that what draws me to her work most is quality of the prose. She reminds me of the terrific American writer Kelly Link.
Another task I relish is bringing writers to Australia who are new to this market. Among those writers are Emily St John Mandel an author of three terrific novels each of which has at its heart a crime. Most recently she has published The Lola Quartet an intriguing story about four friends, a drug deal, failed expectation and lost innocence—perfect summer reading.
Then there are elsewhere established writers who I think should be better known here, especially the Americans. Among that group is A M Homes, author of The Safety of Objects and most recently May We Be Forgiven, a dark comedy chronicling a year in a family’s life—mishaps include manslaughter, private schools and a professor of Nixon studies. I also want to champion the crime writer Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, Shutter Island, and Live By Night.
Another writer I deeply admire is English biographer Ann Wroe. Wroe writes the kind of non-fiction books I most enjoy, the ones that are a clever and often lyrical melding of history, literary excavation, travel stories and an endlessly poetic imagination. Among her many books are Pontius Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man and more recently Orpheus: The Song of Life.
Adelaide Writers’ Week isn’t just about celebrity; it’s an opportunity to hear from great writers and encounter writers you haven heard of yet, it’s about books and the ideas in the books, and the conversations those books provoke. That’s what makes the event so special—that and being in the garden.
Laura Kroetsch is the Director of Adelaide Writers’ Week.