AWW 2014 – signing up

AWW 2014 badge
AWW 2014 badge

Well, this probably comes as no surprise to those of you who follow me on Twitter, but I will be taking part in AWW 2014.

I’ve been tweeting about enjoying hardcopy books again, after finding myself juggling three paperbacks in my reading hours.

They are all books written by Australian women authors, and include crime fiction and memoir/autobiography. They will probably be reviewed during AWW 2014, as this newly created page flags.

What am I reading at the moment?

  1. PM Newton’s The Old School
  2. Michelle Lee’s Banana Girl
  3. Michelle Dicinoski’s Ghost Wife

It’s purely by accident that I’ve ended up in the midst of this fab constellation of writers/books.

1. I finally got into Old School (which I’ve been meaning to read for YEARS, as @oanh_1 will testify…) because I saw that Newton’s second book about Detective ‘Ned’ (Nhu) Kelly was coming out soon.

2. Dicinoski’s book was gifted to me by the author herself after we had a great, energising chat (our first meeting!). I couldn’t resist having a peek at the first few pages and was immediately engaged by the prose and my own Brisbane nostalgia.

3. Lee’s book was a discovery during one of my frantic Xmas bookshopping blitzes. I hadn’t heard anything about this book, but was immediately sucked in by the fact that it was by an Asian Australian woman who lives in Melbourne. Also: the title.

It’s probably an apt time to cut’n paste a reminder about what the AWW challenges are about:

The 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge was set up to help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. The challenge encourages avid readers and book bloggers, male and female,

Australian and non-Australian, to read and review books by Australian women throughout the year. You don’t have to be a writer to sign up. You can choose to read and review, or read only. (Suggestions for what makes a good review can be found here.)

The challenge will run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, 2014. You can sign up at any time.

I will (again) be attempting the Franklin (10 read, 6 reviewed), and I’m not opting for particular genres this time. Given my predilections, and initial momentum, I suspect it’ll be heavy on crime/thriller and memoir.

Hope you’ll consider signing up as well, and joining in what has grown into a bustling, chatty, and very supportive community!


My previous AWW sign-up posts:

AWW 2013 REVIEW – Antidote to Murder (Felicity Young)

Antidote to Murder (Felicity Young)As you can probably tell from my review of Felicity Young’s first novel in the Dody McCleland series, Dissection of Murder, I’m a fan.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this second novel, and it didn’t disappoint.

Well, except that it ended.

Within a few pages, I was back in Young’s evocation of noisome, overheated, early twentieth-century London. As well as the crush and noise, the second-class citizen status of women was immediately clear in Dody’s interactions with hospital staff.

The notoriety of her profession is well layered into the narrative, as is her difficult and often derided role as the first woman in it. Dody is always met with distinct reactions to her chosen lifestyle.

The intrigue starts early with Dody’s beau, police-officer Matthew Pike, doing a runner from the hospital where he was slated for surgery.

We’re quickly into the thick of undercover investigations, illicit drugs, and criminal medical activities. Dody’s sister, Florence, is once again stirring things up, sometimes without realising it. Dody herself is causing more unease than usual by becoming a zealot about sex education and birth control, and who can blame her after the extreme situations that she has to deal with in the impoverished alleyways of Whitechapel.


Books I didn’t read

In or out (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
In or out (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

This post is about books I didn’t read, and books I wish I hadn’t read.

I’d say they’re all in the chick lit. genre.

They were gifts, and I chose to read them because I like female protagonists in chatty, contemporary contexts.

I read a lot of genre fiction, usually crime thrillers, science fiction/fantasy, and occasionally romance.

What I should’ve remembered was that I swore off chick lit. years ago because reading it tended to send me into Berserker rages.

Here’s a window into the Berserker rages that happened recently (consider yourself warned for copious ranting):


AWW 2012 – The Wash Up

2012 Australian Women Writers' reading challengeBack in December 2011, I decided to undertake the 2012 Australian Women Writers’ Reading Challenge.

I’d decided to take on the “Franklin Fantastic” level of the challenge, which means reading 10 books and reviewing at least 4 of them.

I didn’t complete the challenge successfully – reading only 6 novels, and posting 4 reviews. I intended to do more reviews, and definitely finish ten Oz women’s writers’ books. I still have a densely-packed To Read list (populated with AWW as well as others). Time hasn’t quite run out for 2012, but I doubt that I’ll be reading four novels between now and New Year’s Eve because:

1. Kiddies.
2. Funstering with kiddies.
3. Playing with kids’ presents.


Bad Asian

Sweet and sour academia (from Thesis Whisperer’s tmblr, “Refreshments will be provided”)

When I was chatting with the lovely people at Radio National’s Life Matters program the other week, I realised that what I really want to say about national belonging and cultural citizenship was this:

Having full cultural citizenship as an Asian Australian should mean that it’s fine to be a ‘bad’ citizen, as well as celebrating those deemed ‘good’.

‘Asian’ shouldn’t be the first point of categorisation, and the heaviness of migrant expectation and stereotyping of migrants shouldn’t curtail a person’s liberty to be, say, a slacker.

Or to ‘Anglicise’ their name (sez she, who has a coffee name of “Jen”).

Or – (hushed tones) – to be monolingual.

We’re not all economic ‘bridge-builders’, heart-surgeons, and superhero Senators, though I’m hardly complaining that we can be those.

Where is the liberty and comfort of feeling at home with mediocrity or failure?

And I’m talking here both about the bar being set by the broader community as well as the one cultural communities set for themselves. That ‘Model Minority myth‘ cuts both ways.


Genealogy of cake

Cakeworld hardware (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Regular readers of this blog – and people who know me IRL – will know that my family’s obsessed with food in general, and cake decoration in particular.

I’ve previously posted photos of (mostly) my partner’s work in the novelty cake department (see HERE and HERE).

What I haven’t talked about is my mother’s devotion to sugar-art and cake-decorating for a couple of decades when we were younger. And she was younger, and her hands steadier.

Her toolkit of icing implements is still here, fully tricked out with all the nozzle sizes and shapes for piping that you could desire – all metal, and to be screwed into old-school icing bags. She’s still got the coloured twine and wires that were for the miniature icing flowers she’d make by hand. There are even beaded stalks that are meant be flower styles or stamens.

For most of the 1980s and part of the 1990s, my mother was the go-to person in our clan for engagement, 21st and special birthday cakes. I think she may have done a wedding cake here or there as well.


A simple story

Photo sourced from shaundon (

This is a simple, possibly simplistic story, about being a mother and having a career that’s invested in universities.

I believe the rhetoric about universities being good employers for women.

I have benefited twice from generous maternity leave provisions and a phasing-in period of part-time work before becoming full-time once again.

Those who came before me fought long and hard for parental leave entitlements. These entitlements meant the jarring transition from being a non-parent to parent was smoother.

I was a research fellow at the time I had my kids. I had an office to myself at the university with a lockable, opaque door. I could quite easily express for my babies, and kept an ice-blocked esky with me at work. It was a private and self-sustained system that turned out OK. Would I have preferred a formal room that was set aside for mothers that had all the right plumbing and a comfy chair? Of-bloody-course.


AWW 2012 review: A Dissection of Murder (Felicity Young)

When I read this Fair Dinkum Crime review of Felicity Young’s A Dissection of Murder by bernadetteinoz, I added it to my already-excessively-long TBR* list. I’m a sucker for historical crime novels, especially when the lead character is female, and this one had the added relish of the protagonist breaking into a new, ‘suspect’ profession as an autopsy surgeon.

I fell into this book with relish. From the first scenes of the suffragette rally gone bad to the denouement, I was hooked.

The narrative opens with the arrival home of newly qualified Dr Dody McCleland, who has returned from Edinburgh where she completed her studies.

The immediate summons to the first job in her new capacity throws the first elements of latent and overt conflict into the mix: a relationship that is long overdue for pruning, the suspicion and open hostility towards her as a woman in what has been a profession for men only, torn loyalties when confronted with her first autopsy cases…and that’s just the first few pages!


When is a career interruption not a career interruption?

One of these is not like the other (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

The issue of career interruptions is a difficult one in higher education. Particularly given the gendered nature of many ‘interruptions’ (i.e. maternity leave, and who often ends up as the carer for family), I think this is a facet of life that funding bodies – and promotion systems in universities in general – don’t handle particularly well.

Major funding bodies churn through a lot of applications and are most often desperately under-staffed. So, in writing this post, I’m not looking to blame them for not being incredibly considerate of every snowflake situation.

I do wish, though, that there were more effective overall systems in place to consider the nuances of people’s track-records. Or at least a smidge more honesty in what they’re really looking for: unproblematic high performers without ongoing (or potential for) negative issues/conditions.

It bothers (and angers) me that accommodating the interruptions that life sometimes throws at you is often inadequate and perfunctory in research and higher education. Because some basic processes are in place, it feels as if this is assumed to take care of things.

The opacity of how funding bodies decide what counts as an ‘eligibility exemption’ (whether your career interruption justification is accepted) is frustrating.


AWW 2012 – Australian women writers of diverse heritage

After a request for titles from @ElizabethLhuede ( for Australian women writers of diverse backgrounds for the AWW 2012 challenge, I thought a blogpost might be in order (as opposed to a squillion tweets).

The list below is composed mainly of Asian Australian women writers as they are the ones I’m most familiar with, having done my Masters thesis on this topic. My PhD also included Asian Australian women writers, though I must admit to not being totally dedicated to keeping up since I moved away from literary studies (about five or so years ago). Apologies if I’ve missed any out – feel free to add them in the comments. Broadly, the authors are women of Asian descent who are based in Australia, and most of the texts are novels.