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.

Starting a Conversation Around the Suicide Contagion

Kate Gordon’s real-life inspired novel Girl Running, Boy Falling does not shy away from starting a conversation around teen suicide.

According to 2017 data, suicide is the leading underlying cause of deaths among young persons aged 15–24 (31 per cent of deaths).

However, a real-life taboo exists around this national tragedy in the fear that a suicide contagion will spread and glamorise the act for young people.

“We sweep the issue under the carpet, believing this will help to prevent more deaths. If teens can’t see it, they can’t copy it. Clearly, that approach is not working,” said Kate.

Sixteen-year-old Therese lives in a small town on a small island.

Therese has always had her feet on the ground. She’s running through high school, but someone in her life is about to fall ...

And when he does, her perfect world falls with him. For the first time in her life, Therese can’t stand being on the ground.

Do you ever look at the sky and think that’s where we belong? Like maybe the world is the wrong way around and we’re meant to be up there, floating?”

The characters of the novel are deeply personal to Kate as it is based off a childhood friend who took his own life and it became a way for her to deal with his passing.

“I wanted to show that there is hope. When we talk, when we reach out, when we seek help, it can and does get better. You will live, again, and it will be a beautiful thing,” says Kate.

Girl Running, Boy Falling is an intimate window into the things we hide but also the conversations we shouldn’t. You can pre-order your copy now here.

KateGordon Promo min

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The Story Behind Out of the Cages

2018 view from the walk By Penny Jaye, Author of Out of the Cages

I remember exactly where I was when the story for Out of the Cages caught my attention.

I was living in Nepal. My husband worked for an international health and development organisation and our family was based in Pokhara. That day I had been drinking tea – hot, spiced and sweet – in my Nepali friend’s house and she was sharing a small photo album with me. Most of the people in her photos I recognised, younger versions of my friend’s family; her parents, her neighbours, her children so tiny and cute. But there was one young woman pictured that I didn’t recognise, so I asked my friend about her. My Nepali language wasn’t perfect then, but I understood enough to know that this girl was no longer around. She’d gone to the river to wash clothes and she’d never returned. The family had no answers, she’d just disappeared. 2018 walking in the fields

Nepal is a beautiful country. Beautiful in scenery and in its people. But like every country, it holds heartbreak and one of these is the experience of those who have been trafficked. Every year thousands of people – women, men and children – are trafficked across the border. They are sold into slavery in India, in China, Thailand, Dubai, some even make it to Australia and are caught up in domestic service, visa-less, illegal and trapped. A significant proportion of those trafficked from Nepal, especially the young girls and women – prized for their fair complexions, find themselves sold into the brothels of India. The girl in my friend’s photograph may not have been trafficked. She may have been swept away by the river, or just decided not to come home. No one knows. But the questions in her story were the stimulus for this story. 

I began researching and writing Out of the Cages while we were still living in Nepal. As I read local newspaper articles, met with trafficking survivors and visited rehabilitation homes, I learned more about the stories of these young girls who disappear. There have been other books written about this topic – Sold by Patricia McKormick is one, Rosanne Hawke’s Mountain Wolf another. But I wanted to tell the story of the return. Of those girls who have been trafficked, sold, broken and used, but somehow escape. What does freedom feel like if you’ve forgotten how to feel? Can hope be grown again when you’ve been taught Nepal2it doesn’t exist? And friendship – what happens to friendship when the truth about the past is hard to unravel?

Writing Out of the Cages was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It stretched me from my comfort zone both as a writer and as a person. There are some parts of this story I hated writing. And yet I knew I had to write it: to honour those who have survived, those who fight day in and day out for freedom. And for those who remain trapped, unseen and unheard, this book is my prayer. That one day we will see a world that won’t accept slavery as common place, and those who have been captives will be finally set free.

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Finding the Australian Outback

0 Oodnadatta track HawkeBy Rosanne Hawke, Author of Finding Kerra

The seed idea behind Finding Kerra sprang from my childhood, growing up in the semi-outback of central Queensland. My father was a grazier and we lived about ten kilometres from a hot, little town called Banana, where I attended a one-teacher school. I rode to school on a converted cattle truck and it took an hour to pick up all the kids from the neighbouring properties. I was the first one on in the morning, and fortunately, the first one off in the afternoon.

Some of the events in Finding Kerra happened in my childhood: drawing on a windmill platform (I never told my mum, of course), riding horses (didn’t tell Mum that I fell off), a haystack fire in winter, helping with a muster, nearly drowning in a dam. But the setting for Finding Kerra came from my love for the Australian Outback that has increased ever since I rode the Ghan (and a bus) through the desert to Darwin when I was fifteen.0 camel cup2 Hawke

Some years ago, my husband and I took a road trip up past Port Augusta, Beltana, Farina and Marree. We even went to the Camel Cup at Maree to watch camels race and stayed at a station for a few nights. Since then we have travelled up that way again and further north up the Oodnadatta and Strzelecki tracks, Coober Pedy, Uluru and the Alice. More northern treks are planned. Maybe more stories will appear too.

One of my favourite memories of the outback as an author is speaking on School of the Air. I was talking about Mustara and Ernest Giles’ trek to Perth. Students replied interactively that0 Dog Fence Hawkethey had ridden camels and one boy had seen Ernest Giles’ tree where he left a saddle. I was moved that these kids who couldn’t play with each other still had a school community online.

I love the space and atmosphere of the outback. I like to be able to see the horizon and the further away the better. What some call ‘empty spaces’ I think are places full of the magnificence of creation; at Uluru I felt the awe of sitting in a natural cathedral. When I lived in Pakistan, it was this space and huge sky that I missed. Now I live in rural SA. People here still drive utes and lift a finger in greeting as they pass, and the outback is only a day away. Finding Kerra is my attempt at catching a small part of the Australian outback for those who can’t make the trek and for those who will be inspired to go.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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