Roanna headlined at writers’ panel event in Australia
14th April 2019, 02:14 Hrs
UNSW writer-in-residence Roanna Gonsalves believes that reading fiction is an invitation to empathy, as it helps the reader see the world from different perspectives.
“Fiction illuminates aspects of the world and aspects of human experience that we wouldn’t consider on our own,” the South-Asian Australian author says. “Fiction helps us live a million lives.” The emerging author, who won the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Multicultural Prize last year for The Permanent Resident, is finishing her residency at UNSW.
The panel event also hosted UNSW Writer-in-Residence, the award-winning established writer Michelle de Kretser, in conversation with another South-Asian Australian author Suneeta Peres da Costa. Peres da Costa was born in Sydney to parents of Goan origin and writes fiction, non-fiction, plays and poetry.
The three writers of South-Asian backgrounds discussed how writers can explore and navigate the currents of everyday life, with migration and movement across worlds a common experience, which unfolds differently for different people.
“Yet Australia is seen as a White nation, as is Canada and America and New Zealand in many ways,” she says in a press release. “My work is a deliberate attempt to disrupt this narrative. It is also an attempt to re-imagine what it means to be an Indian today. As an Indian and now also an Australian, I write from the cultural peripheries of both nations. All the stories in my book The Permanent Resident are about outsiders.”
She says a reading of Michelle de Kretser’s work will result in seeing in a new way, the power hierarchies that can exist between neighbours, you will understand the experience of travel in a new way, you will have a fresh perspective on Australia, on class privilege, on the literary world”.
Peres da Costa, whose new work – is set in India, says the topic of the panel event is timely and resonant. “Since my new novella Saudade was published last year, I realised I have always been writing stories about migration, cultural difference, borders, colonisation, wars of independence and sovereignty – and the mythologies about race and ‘Others’ which the nation state engages in,” as quoted in the press note. “My two book-length works, Homework, and Saudade, are about diaspora, home-making and un/belonging in colonial and postcolonial societies, with Goan and Indian identity at the centre of that experience.”
Peres da Costa says the two writers allow us to see how characters connect and fail to connect with others; with Australia and with the world; how we misunderstand each other and ourselves because of prejudice, ignorance, hypocrisy, ambition and vanity – and yet the writing creates a bridge to understanding all of this.
She says injustice has always propelled her to write.“I want the reader to empathise or at the very least for the text to elicit sympathy so that they might better understand the characters’ motivations, journeys and destinations.”
During their residencies at UNSW, the South Asian writers were required to present masterclasses for students, give lectures on their work and be available for student consultations.
Roanna Gonsalves says the three-month residency at UNSW enabled her to consult with historians and make use of the UNSW Library’s resources. This helped with her next novel, an historical fiction based on Governor Macquarie’s Indian servant. “I hope I can do justice to the story,” Gonsalves says in the press release.
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