Write of Passage: Popular Nostalgia
George Bernard Shaw once quipped that ‘youth is wasted on the young’. Was he issuing sage wisdom about ageing … or was he just a huge fan of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants?
From The Goldfinch to Vernon God Little, Goodbye, Columbus to Jane Eyre, there’s a long history of coming-of-age novels targeted squarely at an adult audience. Young adult books, meanwhile, are increasingly attracting their own armies of impassioned older readers. What is it about bildungsroman narratives that continues to fascinate adults, and what distinguishes an ‘adult’ coming-of-age story from a work of young adult fiction? Do we find a sense of catharsis in revisiting the heady emotions of youth – albeit from the safe distance of (apparent) maturity?
Tegan Bennett Daylight writes for adults, young adults, and children, and her new short story collection, Six Bedrooms, offers glimpses of the angst, embarrassment, and beauty of adolescence. Liam Pieper’s charming works of memoir interrogate his own misspent youth. And in his celebrated debut Shadowboxing, Tony Birch captures the experience of growing up in inner-Melbourne in the 1960s.
With host Toni Jordan, they’ll explore what it means to read and write about young adulthood from a grown-up perspective – and share the coming-of-age stories that have meant the most to them.
Toni Jordan is the author of four novels. The international bestseller Addition (2008) was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin award. Fall Girl (2010) was published internationally and has been optioned for film, while Nine Days (2012) was awarded Best Fiction at the 2012 Indie Awards, shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award and named in Kirkus Review’s Top 10 Historical Novels of 2013. Her latest novel is Our Tiny, Useless Hearts (2016). Toni has been published widely in newspapers and magazines.
Tegan Bennett Daylight is a critic, teacher and fiction writer. She is the author of several books for children and teenagers, including the novels Bombora, What Falls Away and Safety. Her stories appear in a wide range of Australian journals, including Griffith Review, Meanjin and Best Australian Stories. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her husband and two children.
Liam Pieper is an author and journalist. His first book was a memoir, The Feel-Good Hit of the Year, shortlisted for the National Biography Award and the Ned Kelly Best True Crime award. His second was the Penguin Special Mistakes Were Made, a volume of humorous essays. He was co-recipient of the 2014 M Literary Award, winner of the 2015 Geoff Dean Short Story Prize and the inaugural creative resident of the UNESCO City of Literature of Prague. His first novel, The Toymaker, received the 2016 Christina Stead Fiction Award from the Fellowship of Australian Writers.
Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and three short story collections – Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People.
In 2017 Tony was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. In 2021 he will release two new books, a poetry collection, Whisper Songs, and a new short story collection, Dark as Last Night. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist.