Thanks to everyone who came to the launch of my new Young Adult novel, Inkflower. Melbourne Holocaust Museum’s Manager of Adult Education, Dr Simon Holloway, joined me on stage for a wonderful conversation about memory, history, love, hate and hope. It felt very special on this, the twentieth anniversary of my father's death, to reflect on his past as a survivor of Auschwitz, and the many lessons he taught me while living so bravely and graciously with Motor Neurone Disease.
Thanks to everyone who made it to Readings Bookshop to celebrate the release of my first Picture Book, Arabella's Alphabet Adventure. If you'd like Arabella and I to read to your class, library or bookshop, contact us here. We have loads of games and activities... and even a few leftover lollipops!
So excited to be counting down to the release of my first ever picture book, Arabella’s Alphabet Adventure!
My last three novels for young adults centred on love, hate, hope, war, racism and gender inequality. Important topics with smart, kind, fierce protagonists, I hoped would inspire my readers to be change-makers.
Writing a picture book for younger children was like stepping into sunshine and a great opportunity to return to what ignited my love of words: the picture book. Being the mum of three kids who devoured books, the library became my second home and the perfect setting for a story about an ABC book who longs to be taken seriously.
Arabella has 26 letters but not a single word. She’s tired of little fingers scribbling and tearing at her pages and wants adults to adore her. When she slips between the pages of a travel guide to Africa her adventures begin. Will Arabella find happiness in the arms of an adult or will she return home, having learned that she is perfect - and loved - just the way she is?
Thinking about it now, my novels and this book (beautifully illustrated by the super-talented Christopher Nielsen) aren’t so different, after all. They’re about the stories we tell ourselves and the importance of recognising that we all have value.
I loved writing it. I hope you love reading it (and sharing it with the little people you love.)
The Grown Up Girls Report
If you haven't checked out The Grown up Girls Report Book Club do it now! I loved talking to Alex for this week's podcast episode. We covered so much in the hour... writing, women's rights, life in Uganda and how tough it is to be a girl growing up in a place where girls are invisible. If you want to learn how to be a changemaker or take a sneak peek into the real stories that inspired I Am Change you can find the episode via your favourite podcast app or via this link:
Thanks for listening!
Dimity's Kid's pick:
I Am Change by Suzy Zail ( YA - Walker Books)
I absolutely adored Zail's unashamedly barefaced and poetic narrative. She portrays Lilian's innocence and coming of age with candidness and confidence so that the reader's relationship with Lilian is never spoiled. The beautiful balance between Lilian's gritty strength and her childlike naiveté is one of the biggest drawcards of this story making it a compelling and empowering read for teen girls and boys alike.
So excited that I am Change has landed in the U.K.!! Same gorgeous cover but this time with Amnesty International's endorsement.
" I can’t think of the last time I read such a strong and independent voice on a challenging topic, but making it incredibly relatable. We’d be delighted to endorse it." Amnesty International, 2020.
Our initiative launched on 21 May 2020, but the story reaches back to 2015 when I began researching girls’ rights for my novel, I Am Change.
I was inspired to write about girls’ rights after learning of the 2014 terrorist abduction of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and, needing to learn more, flew to Uganda. I didn't know what it felt like to be a poor African girl without shoes or schoolbooks. I needed to speak to girls who did.
The thirty girls I met through organisations like Concern for the Girl-Child and Girls Not Brides told me about forgoing meals to pay for textbooks and trading their bodies for school fees. Some had been given as wives in exchange for cattle. None of the girls I interviewed had both their parents. They lived in concrete boxes in the city's slums or in remote villages without running water or electricity. A lucky few were in secondary school, on scholarships, the only girls in their class.
I shared these stories with good friend and co-founder of Executive Edge Travel, Yvonne Verstandig and, inspired by my work to champion girls' rights, she asked if I'd co-host a women’s-only tour to Uganda in May 2020. Our focus was to create real change and help improve the lives of girls through authentic giving. We planned to do this by meeting with female leaders of change and taking part in Girl’s Empowerment Clubs. We were going to spend time with the girls I wrote about and arm them with the tools they need to shape their own lives including scholarships, school supplies, food and sanitary pads.
Then Covid-19 hit and we had to postpone our plans. We hope to take the tour in May 2021 but wanted to help girls now, when they most need it. Girls already face so many challenges, especially once they develop curves; the sexual advances by teachers, harassment by male schoolmates and the expectation that once they bleed, they’ll stop school to marry. And it's even worse for the girls living in Uganda's slums.
When I asked my friend Christine Adero of Girl Child Network, Uganda how we could help, she asked if we could provide bras for the vulnerable girls in the Soweto Namuwongo slum in Uganda.
The slum - the second biggest and poorest in Kampala and home to 30,000 people - is sandwiched between a railway line and a channel that takes Kampala's sewerage to Lake Victoria. Most families are crowded into small single-room mud houses without toilets or clean water and struggle to earn a living. Girls and women survive by selling vegetables, washing clothes or selling home cooked food, earning as little as 23 cents a week.
Christine told me: “Most girls can barely afford a meal, so they can't afford bras. Too many girls put themselves into compromising situations to afford one. Providing these girls and women with bras would help keep them out of danger and avoid the need to resort to sexual transactions.”
You can hear more from Christine here.
We’ve already collected over 1000 bras and would love you to spread the word. We’re accepting new and pre-loved bras at our growing number of collection points (listed below) between now and 12 June. If anyone can’t get to a location, they can post or courier their bras to:
Fella Hamilton Head Office
Uganda Bra Donations
306 Chesterville Road
We also need to raise funds to pay for the cost of shipping the bras from Australia to Uganda. If anyone wants to support this cause please pass on this link. Any contribution will be deeply appreciated.
2 Kanooka Avenue Ashwood Before 8 pm
24 Aroona road North Caulfield Before 8 pm
9 Dean Avenue East St. Kilda Before 8 pm
Victorian Children’s Clinic 149 Wattletree Road Malvern 9 - 5 Mon-Fri
Fella Hamilton Head Office 306 Chesterville Road Moorabbin 9 – 6 Mon-Fri
Natuzzi 483 Church Street Richmond 10 – 4 Mon-Sat
Lulu Belle Bellevue Hill
LPN Design Unit 16, 23 Narabang Way, Belrose, NSW 9 - 4 Mon-Fri
Fella Hamilton, Shop T58 Harbour Town Outlet
727 Tapleys Hill Road, Adelaide Airport. 10-4 Mon-Sat
29 Allen Street East, Fremantle Before 8 pm
Thrilled to be among this stellar group of Australian writers selected by Australia's independent booksellers for the Indie Book Awards 2020 young adult long-list! Shortlist to be announced mid-January!