Rhiza Press Blog

Rhiza Press blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Australian books for Adult and Young Adult readers.

Chatting with Lora Inak

DSC 4647What do you mean by ‘the cultural tightrope’?

That’s a great question and one that I’ve asked myself. By the term ‘Cultural Tightrope’ I mean: The act of balancing between the culture you’re born into, and the culture of the place or country in which you live.

Like the traditional circus tightrope we all know, the cultural tightrope can be precarious as it swings and bounces over the journey of the walker. For us first, second, and even third-generation Australians, we sometimes find ourselves on an oscillating tightrope, unsure of where we fit. Are we real Australians? We weren’t born here! Or, if we were, we don’t look like the typical Aussie in TV commercials. Inevitably, we look for cues about what is culturally acceptable should we choose to define ourselves as an Australian, and too often change ourselves to blend in, to balance, rejecting the culture of our forefathers. Alternatively, we deep dive into it, immersing ourselves in the safety of where we know we definitely belong.

As I get older, it increasingly dawns on me just how much the culture within us, and the culture without, affects every part of how we exist. And with this awareness, comes the realisation of just how important it is to understand, accept, and be proud of it. Not only is culture a wide and frameless being, it is also complex in its constant evolution and fusion. So, it’s no surprise that balancing that tightrope can be tough.

 Natalie has to balance two lives—her Syrian and Australian identities. Do you think many Australian teenagers walk this cultural tightrope too? Is it tricky to balance?

The ABS tells us that around 30% of Australians are born overseas. This figure covers the entire population and within it, a wide age range so yes, I definitely believe many Australian teenagers find themselves on that precarious cultural tightrope, but so do a great many adults. What I think varies is the type of tightrope we walk.

As a teenager we want so much to fit in, but simultaneously, stand out as an individual – so the balance is more about what we wear, how we speak, our social activities etc. As an adult, the balance changes focus to how we parent, how we behave in our working life, what language we speak at home – do we encourage our kids to assimilate or adopt their cultural heritage. Of course, it’s not the same for everyone and I’ve made some generalisations but for some, that balance can be pretty tricky.

You’re a Turkish-born Australian. Did you have similar experiences to Natalie when you were growing up? I did. My parents were loving, but also strict and overly protective so I missed out on school camps and mixed sex parties. Sleepovers at friends’ houses were a definite no, as was dating boys. I was in constant terror of being caught walking home with male school mates – but in hindsight, some of it was in my head, and as I grew older, I found my parents weren’t as strict and unreasonable as I’d thought. In fact, when I finally introduced them to my now husband, they were really warm and welcoming, despite him being an Aussie 😊.

What was your first impression of Australia when you immigrated?

In my blog – Tip o The Fez I actually recount my first memory in Australia in a post titled 'Immigrant Girl'. I was only four years old when my family immigrated here, so my memories are a little hazy, but what left an imprint on me was a sense of wonder and magic - that this place, Australia, was full of possibilities. Although I was so young, I believe my senses were spot on. That’s exactly how I still feel about Australia.

 What’s it like to be a debut author? Are you excited or nervous?

Absolutely awesome! I’m excited and nervous and still in a state of disbelief but also incredibly happy. I feel very fortunate that the team at Rhiza Press believe in me and my work, and have given me this opportunity to share my story with others.

 

Lora's debut novel, Unspoken Rules, is out on the 17th of September on Australian Citizenship Day.

To find out more about Lora, visit her website and Facebook.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
275 Hits
0 Comments

The Cultural Tightrope

By Lora Inak

DSC 4091If you plug in the term ‘Cultural Tightrope’ into any search engine, you’ll undoubtedly find a mix of explanations, definitions, stories, articles and random websites. I started my research in exactly this way, sifting through page after page of search hits to find the perfect definition and starting point for this article.

After some time, and no real luck, I realised the difficult task of defining my meaning fell on me:

The act of balancing between the culture you’re born into, and the culture of the place or country in which you live.

Like the traditional circus tightrope we all know, the cultural tightrope can be precarious as it swings and bounces over the journey of the walker. For us first, second, and even third-generation Australians, we sometimes find ourselves on an oscillating tightrope, unsure of where we fit.

Are we real Australians? We weren’t born here! Or, if we were, we don’t look like the typical Aussie in tv commercials.

Inevitably, we look for cues about what is culturally acceptable should we choose to define ourselves as an Australian, and too often change ourselves to blend in, to balance, rejecting the culture of our forefathers. Alternatively, we deep dive into it, immersing ourselves in the safety of where we know we definitely belong.

As I get older, it increasingly dawns on me just how much the culture within us, and the culture without, affects every part of how we exist. The food we eat, the people we associate with, the books/movies/music we enjoy, the partner we marry, how we raise our children, our occupation, and the list goes on in a seemingly endless stream.

And with this awareness, comes the realisation of just how important it is to understand, accept, and be proud of it. Not only is culture a wide and frameless being, it is also complex in its constant evolution and fusion. So, it’s no surprise that balancing that tightrope can be tough.

As I learned to appreciate, accept and enjoy the culture I was born into and the one in which I live, I created a personal hybrid where I found comfort, happiness and balance. The tightrope stopped swaying...

So I walked calmly to the other end and climbed off.

 

Lora's debut novel, Unspoken Rules, is out on the 17th of September on Australian Citizenship Day.

To find out more about Lora, visit her website and Facebook.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
432 Hits
0 Comments

Danger and Dancing - Chats with Rosanne Hawke

LianasDanceES1. Tell us a little bit about Liana’s Dance. What can readers expect?

Liana’s Dance is a sweeping adventure so if you liked The War Within, you’ll like this novel too. Liana’s Dance also has a touch of mystery due to a family secret. Sixteen-year-old Liana tries to come to terms with living in a dangerous time, especially when her school is attacked by terrorists, but also fights peril from within herself.

2. Like Liana, did you experience danger when you lived in Pakistan?

It’s strange but we never felt we were in constant danger. Sometimes we were in danger due to the environment, like being trapped by snow in the Chitral Valley or getting lost and turning up in a strange village of only men, all carrying guns (we got out of there pretty fast and fortunately weren’t followed). My husband was detained by police twice, once for looking too much like an Afghan freedom fighter and second for letting off firecrackers for the girls’ school where I worked.

During the Gulf War the police said we were in danger since we looked like Americans and had to remain at home. Fortunately the people in Abbottabad, where we lived, knew us and gave us no trouble. The kindness of the people outweighed the dangers. For example, a poor Christian family brought us food while we were house-detained.

3. Liana’s Dance is inspired by your Beyond Borders series. Why did you think it was important to tell Liana’s story now?0 Rosanne

Some readers have been concerned about what happened at the end of The War Within and wanted to know more about Liana. I thought it was good to see what Liana was like when she was Jaime’s age. She has an incredible story of depression and hope; fear and strength; maturity and love. I also believe telling Liana’s story is good for Jaime in helping her navigate her lonely landscape of grief.

4. How do you think Australian teenagers would relate to Liana’s story?

When I wrote the first draft of Liana’s story I thought a terrorist attack on a Western school would never happen, but imagine my shock when some years later, it did. I kept working on the story because some young people do have to walk through frightening situations, even in Western countries. They can emerge fearful or more mature. Also, the situation in which Liana finds herself while travelling with her young music teacher is a dilemma that’s not often spoken about, but can easily become a problem in high school.

5. All right, last question. Liana loves to dance. Are you known to give a little boogie or jig every now and then?

Ha, not likely. I grew up in semi outback QLD and loved country dances and balls. My brother would take me when I was older as the boys at school didn’t know how to dance. Maybe I was a geek.

While in Pakistan some Afghan ladies taught my girls and me some dance steps. Sometimes when I was first writing stories set in Pakistan I dressed in the outfit those ladies made for me, put the Caravans soundtrack on and secretly danced their steps. It helped me think of what to write next.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
575 Hits
0 Comments

Amanda Deed Talks Fairy Tales and Superman

DeedAmandaWhat was your inspiration for adapting the Cinderella story? What aspects of her story were you most drawn to?

I’ve always loved fairy tales and Cinderella is one of my favourites. What drew me to rewrite it is that Cinderella is basically bullied by those horrible stepsisters and stepmother. This kind of treatment affects a person’s self-esteem, and self-esteem is something I struggled with a lot in my teens. I can’t say I was bullied precisely, but I was teased often, leaving me feeling worthless and unloved.

When I grew up I realised that the very things other kids teased me for were actually my strengths. What a way to destroy a person’s potential. Thankfully I worked through those issues and now have more self-confidence. But, it did leave me wanting to encourage others about their self-worth, and so I decided to weave that theme into my Cinderella story – Unnoticed.

 

How do you think Price Moreland compares to Prince Charming?

Well, he’s handsome, charming (in a good way), and he is the heir to a large fortune/estate. His father is a ‘king’ in the booming railway and shipping industry in America. And, of course, he is able to look past Jane’s apparent servitude and poverty.

Jane is often self-conscious about her appearance and tries to go unnoticed (a very apt title). Do you think a lot of teenagers would relate to this?

Absolutely. When the target of teasing, it would be so much easier to disappear. You’d rather be unnoticed altogether, than noticed and made fun of for your perceived faults. I found that for myself.

I have also witnessed it in teenagers recently. Watching a sixteen-year-old girl walk across the room with her head down—looking uncomfortable to say the least—I asked her, ‘Why are you feeling so awkward walking over here?’

She told me: ‘I feel like everyone’s looking at me.’

I smiled at her. ‘You know they’re actually not. They’re all too busy in their own little world to be taking much notice of you.’

‘Well they should be!’ was her bold reply.

‘So walk like they should be. You are absolutely worth looking at and worth noticing. You are beautiful.’

There’s a kind of confused mixture of wanting to be noticed and accepted, and not wanting to be noticed in case we are rejected.

 

If you could be any fairy tale heroine, who would it be?

I can’t say I’ve ever aspired to be one of the fairy tale heroines, although I do love the way Rapunzel wielded that frying pan in Tangled. I’d more likely aspire to Lois Lane just because she got to fly with Superman. I love Superman. In fact, every time I see a kid in a Superman costume, I ask them if they will take me flying. Unfortunately, no-one has said yes yet.

 

What can we expect in the next instalment Unhinged?

Unhinged will be a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast – another of my favourite fairy tales. However, instead of the beast being a monster, or a physical deformity in a man, the beast will be mentally-ill.

It is very challenging to write. But again, mental health is such a big subject these days, even with teens. I just heard of a Year Twelve student being put on anti-depressants to deal with anxiety. It makes me sad that people so young have to struggle with such deep issues. Hopefully Unhinged, amidst an entertaining story, will give encouragement to people who deal with this kind of illness.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
1174 Hits
0 Comments

Rhiza Catches Up With Patricia Weerakoon About Winning The Caleb Prize

WeerakoonPatriciaEmpire’s Children by Patricia Weerakoon recently won the Caleb Prize for faith-inspired fiction at the Omega Writers Conference. Rhiza Press caught up with Patricia to discuss her novel and what it means to her.

1) Sum up Empire’s Children in one catchy sentence.
Set in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka in the dying days of British colonial rule, Empire's Children is a story of the redemptive power of love over the destructive force of exploitative power, racial tensions and abuse.

2) What first impelled you to write this story?
My father was a tea-maker during the time of British colonial rule of the plantations in Sri Lanka. This novel is both recognition of and a dedication to the Sri Lankan natives like my parents and the Indian indentured labourers like Lakshmi and her parents, who made a life under difficult and often demeaning circumstances.

3) Empire’s Children follows so many individual stories. Did you have a favourite, or one you liked writing the most?
Dr Jega Jayaseelan is my favorite. The illegitimate son of the British superintendent and Indian coolie labourer turned sex worker, he has the resilience to withstand the prejudices of Sri Lankan culture towards Eurasian children and makes an outstanding career for himself. Yet, when faced with the decision, he is unselfish and self-sacrificing enough to give up Shiro, the girl he loves, to his half-brother Anthony so they could find happiness.

4) Which character do you think readers most relate to in the novel?
I hope they relate to Shiro. She is feisty, brilliant and determined, yet deeply vulnerable when it comes to love.

5) Even though it is set in Sri Lanka fifty years ago, do you think there are a lot of parallels to modern day Australia?
Racial prejudices and power play between the rich and poor across countries, cultures and time.

6) What is your favourite part about being an author?
I live with my characters. My readers see only a sliver of my characters’ lives, I know them intimately. I know what happened in their life before they enter the page and what they do long after. They wake up with me and walk through the day by my side.

7) What is the hardest part about being an author?
Letting go of my characters when I move to another novel or story.

8) Explain how you felt when Empire’s Children won the Caleb Award?
Unbelief! My first novel! Surely, it couldn’t be that good? Then a deep gratitude for the recognition from my peers.

 

Read the award-winning Empire's Children for yourself.

Rate this blog entry:
Continue reading
1678 Hits
0 Comments