Books and Ideas at Montalto
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Michael Mohammed Ahmad
Michael Mohammed Ahmad is a writer whose novels explore Australia’s smouldering tribalism – found as much within its communities as between them – eschewing clichés and easy, feel-good conclusions.
His first novel, The Tribe, introduced readers to the complex family life of protagonist Bani Adam, a young boy from a religious Lebanese Muslim family in western Sydney. In The Lebs, Bani is a teenager grappling with a different set of conflicts – about superiority, sexuality, violence and faith – played out against the backdrop of high school and graduation.
Ahmad’s writing stings and sparks; it’s tense, insistent and unsettling, deploying a hungry, confrontational vernacular. Bani’s narration doesn’t present a worthy, heartwarming model of Lebanese Australian-ness. Instead, we’re offered a provocative, complex and sometimes brutal portrait – take or leave it.
In conversation with host Elizabeth McCarthy, Michael Mohammed Ahmad discusses multicultural identities, coming of age and the disorienting power of language.
Books and Ideas at Montalto series sound design and music: Jon Tjhia.
Michael Mohammed Ahmad is an Arab-Australian writer, editor, teacher and community arts worker. He is the founder and director of Sweatshop, a literacy movement in Western Sydney devoted to empowering culturally and linguistically diverse artists through creative writing.
Mohammed's essays and short stories have appeared in the Sydney Review of Books, the Guardian, Heat, Seizure, the Lifted Brow, the Australian and Coming of Age: Australian Muslim Stories. His debut novel, The Tribe, received a 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelists of the Year Award. Mohammed received his Doctorate of Creative Arts at Western Sydney University in 2017.
Elizabeth McCarthy has worked as a producer and presenter in radio for 20 years. She produces the breakfast show at Australia’s biggest independent broadcaster, 3RRR, and reviews books on 3RRR and ABC Radio Melbourne. In 2019 she was the convenor of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, and from 2013–2017 she anchored Triple R’s flagship books and writing show, Multi-Storied.
She regularly interviews writers at live events and public conversations for the Wheeler Centre, Sydney Writers’ Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival, and more. She has previously worked as a music reviewer, and from 2002 – 2006 she was the drummer and co-lyricist for Melbourne swamp-rock grrrl band, The Muddy Spurs.