Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Memoir Club: Michael Mohammed Ahmad in conversation with Beth Yahp

Tuesday, 24 June 2014, 6.00 - 9.00 PM

The Randwick Literary Institute,
60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Next Tuesday’s Memoir Club presents a new talent that will change Australia’s contemporary literary landscape. 

Come share 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 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.'"

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.' (Overland Journal, Winter 2014)

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

Michael Mohammed Ahmad 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 & Society Research Centre.

 Michael Mohammed Ahmad stars as Billy
Michael Mohammed Ahmad as Billy "The Kid" Dib in I'm Your Man (Downstairs Belvoir , 2012)
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. She also runs small group masterclasses once or twice a year for writers of memoir, fiction and travel writing.

When: last Tuesday of every month (29 July, 26 August, 30 September etc.)

Time: 6.00 - 9.00 PM (come for a cuppa and help us set up at 5.30 PM - please remember to bring your own cup!)

Where: 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:

What: A communal space to meet other writers and readers and converse about all things to do with reading and writing memoir. We are interested in all kinds of life stories and in different ways of telling them. The genre of life writing and the possibilities of expanding and reworking the genre is exciting to us. Therefore we have a somewhat open and inclusive approach to what makes a memoir, and we hope you do too! Here is a space to connect with others and share ideas, questions and just hang out. Each meeting will start off with a talk, conversation or discussion about a particular topic or book, sometimes with a guest speaker or facilitator, then we move to an informal gathering and catch up.

Donation: $10 at the door for hall hire, refreshments and speakers.

Food: $15 for a plate of delicious vegetarian finger food (different each meeting). Ring or text to book a plate: 0450 907 422.

Future Speakers: Mandy Sayer (July).

Look forward to seeing you there! Please do pass information on to anyone who might be interested in this community gathering.

mem·oir /ˈmemˌwär/
Noun. A historical account or biography written from personal knowledge. An autobiography or a written account of one's memory of certain events or people.

“Stories nurture our connection to place and to each other. They show us where we have been and where we can go. They remind us of how to be human, how to live alongside the other lives that animate this planet… When we lose stories, our understanding of the world is less rich, less true."                                                                                                           —Susan J. Tweit

“I once saw hourglasses in my grandmother’s eyes, and now I see them again, the sands of time dictating my future. But what if the desert in my grandmother’s eyes came to an end? What if it collided with the sea, somewhere, beyond the dunes?"                   —Michael Mohammed Ahmad

“When it comes to memoir, we want to catch the author in a lie. When we read fiction, we want to catch the author telling the truth.”
                                                                                                                      —Tayari Jones