From the MWF program: Ditty was born to dance, but she was also born to Jewish parents with other ideas. Sabiha is Bosnian, but she's also Australian and a Muslim, and prefers to be called Sammie...
Caught between family and friends, dreams and responsibility, Ditty and Sabiha have some thinking to do. Sound familiar? Robyn Bavati (Dancing in the Dark) and Amra Pajalic (The Good Daughter) talk family matters.
After Melina Marchetta's session, I headed up to ACMI to wait for this to start in ACMI Cinema 1. Originally, I hadn't purchased a ticket for this event - unfortunately Megan of Literary Life was unable to attend and being the awesome girl that she is, offered up her ticket. I got to meet Megan this morning, and she is just as lovely in person as she is on her blog! Anyway, here are my notes from the session (which was chaired by Ruby Murray):
- We started with an introduction to Robyn and Amra - which I was really grateful for, as unfortunately I wasn't able to read either of the books before the session (but purchased both books from the Readings stand later that afternoon and plan to read them as soon as possible!).
- Both Dancing in the Dark and The Good Daughter examine cultural differences in modern Australia and the difficulties teens can face when there's a clash of conflicting identities. Ditty is an Orthodox Jewish household who secretly ventures into the secular world (and seems to enjoy what it can offer) and questions her beliefs. Sammi has to balance home and cultural identities - her mother wanting her to be a 'good daughter' in front of guests. Amra also talked about the way her writing explores the stigma of being a child of a parent suffering from mental illness (an area I find especially interesting and not hugely represented in YA fiction.
- What I thought was really interesting was how much each novel seemed to come from the authors own experiences. Robyn has a dance background and Amra grew up between Bosnia and the western suburbs, and described that at times when writing The Good Daughter "felt like I was bleeding on the paper".
- I loved getting to hear their own stories about growing up. Robyn was a self-confessed "good girl" who didn't lie to her parents until she was 14 (and then confessed to her mother two years later because she couldn't stand the guilt!).
- There was also some excellent discussion surrounding moments in coming of age, especially when "beginning to question your parents' beliefs and what you've been taught" - which was something I could really relate to (like being raised in Catholic household and attending Catholic school for over ten years - I'm now lapsed and my brother is an atheist).
- Both authors discussed the response to their work their respective communities. Robyn said the Orthodox community generally liked it and felt it presented a balanced view, with the exception of one high school administrator, though she made the very sensible comment that "all you can do is write a book ... you can't control how people react to it". Amra commented that most Bosnians don't read English! Though it seems like most teens who've read it have responded positively.
- Ruby remarked at the beginning to the session that the writing of both authors celebrates "brave and courageous women", which is always a good thing,