The Wheeler Centre
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This Alien Nation
In an increasingly connected world where the question of immigration is often an anxious or heated one, being a newcomer can be uncomfortable, funny and weird. But it also makes for some great stories.
Each month at Joe's Pub in New York, This Alien Nation stages a celebration of immigration – inviting a handful of interesting, talented writers and performers to present stories about migration. Typically, those stories run the gamut from heartbreaking to hilarious – encountering language barriers, cultural missteps, rumbles, romance and more.
For the first time in Australia, host Sofija Stefanovic welcomes some of her favourite outsiders for a celebration of elsewhere and right here. Come for the stories and leave with some feelings – with restaurateur and Speed Date a Muslim founder Hana Assafiri, writer Khalid Warsame, journalist George Megalogenis, author and lawyer Alice Pung, musician Vahideh Eisaei and cultural historian and critic Maria Tumarkin.
Sofija Stefanovic is a MothStorySLAM winner and a founding faculty member of The School of Life in Melbourne. She hosts This Alien Nation and the popular literary salon Women of Letters New York, and her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Elle and the Guardian. Her debut memoir Miss Ex-Yugoslavia (April 2018) is a sometimes funny sometimes dark story about being an immigrant kid during the Yugoslavian Wars.
Hana Assafiri has dedicated her professional and private life to removing barriers that prevent women from living prosperous lives. By opening her first restaurant in 1998, the popular Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy–now an institution for many Victorians, Hana has provided employment opportunities for marginalised members of the community. In 2015, she was awarded TimeOut’s Legend Award for her flair for innovation and entrepreneurship. Internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei also chose to include Hana in his famous collection of portraits of local social activists.
Maria Tumarkin writes books, essays, reviews, and pieces for performance and radio; she collaborates with sound and visual artists and has had her work carved into dockside tiles. She is the author of four books of ideas. Her fourth (and latest) book Axiomatic won the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award (US), the Stella Prize, and the Prime Minister’s, NSW and Victorian Premiers’ Awards. Axiomatic was named a New Yorker Top 10 Book of 2019.
Maria is a recipient of the 2020 Windham Campbell Prize in the category of nonfiction. She holds a PhD in cultural history and is a senior lecturer in the creative writing program at the University of Melbourne.
George Megalogenis is an author and journalist with three decades' experience in the media. The Australian Moment won the 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Non-fiction and the 2012 Walkley Award for Non-fiction, and formed the basis for his ABC documentary series Making Australia Great.
Alice Pung is an award-winning Australian writer whose books include the bestselling memoirs Unpolished Gem (2006) and Her Father's Daughter (2011), and the novel Laurinda (2014). She is the editor of the anthology Growing Up Asian in Australia (2008), and created the Marly books for Penguin's Our Australian Girl series (2015). Her latest book is the novel One Hundred Days (2021).
Khalid Warsame is a writer, photographer, and arts producer who lives in Melbourne. His essays and fiction have appeared in the Lifted Brow, Overland, the Big Issue, Cordite Poetry Review, and LitHub. He has previously edited fiction for the Lifted Brow, worked as a creative producer at the Footscray Community Arts Centre and Co-Directed the National Young Writers Festival. He is currently working on his first novel.
Vahideh Eisaei grew up in an artistic family with a love for the arts, music and poetry. She completed her musical training in Tehran, and subsequently achieved a Master of Music at the University of Western Australia.
For more than a decade, Vahideh has been playing the ghanun/qanun, an instrument rarely heard in Persian music, in different ensembles – performing in Europe, Australia and the Middle East. Besides this, she has been conducting research projects on children's music among new and emerging communities in Perth, Australia.