Q & A: John Marsden says he would not have written the Tomorrow series today


21 August 2018 00:16:00

A series of questions about racial relationships and immigration was addressed to a panel of authors on the Q & A panel on Monday evening.

On the desk with host Tony Jones were John Marsden, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Sofie Laguna, Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Trent Dalton.

Marsden was asked whether his series Tomorrow, starting with the 1993 novel Tomorrow When the War Began, helped raise a generation of Australians who were afraid of a foreign invasion.

"I hope not," said Marsden. "It was written about 20 years ago when nobody talked about the safety of Australia."

The seven book series, later adapted to a film, tells the story of a group of Australian teenagers who came together to try to fight a strange power against invading and occupying Australia.

"I would not write that book now – not because of a social point of view, but because of my own horror at the way refugees have come to Australia," he said.

"When I see people who legitimately arrive here in search of a place of refuge and shelter, and they are treated as the scum of the Earth and they are condemned to terrible detention and sometimes death by both great political parties without any apparent scruples or conscience by those parties, it would put me in a very different position when it came to writing a book about threats to Australia, because demonizing such people is unforgivable and disgusting and it is a constant obscenity in our lives. "

Mohammed Ahmad, whose latest novel The Lebs touches young Muslims' perspective in western Sydney, disagreed with Mars, saying that he could remember the Xenophobia decades later when Marsden's Tomorrow series for first was published.

"I remember growing up in the western suburbs of Sydney, where enormous xenophobia prevailed against the Vietnamese-Australian community," he said.

"With all due respect, the language of the book and the implications in the book, the lives of many of the young people I grew up have been really affected and damaged.

And for me, reading, it is not about the ability to compose words, it is about the ability to separate words.

"When I disassembled the words in the series Tomorrow, I interpreted a paranoid, white nationalist fantasy about a group of colored people who illegally invaded this country, and I always find that story deeply ironic, because that's what the white population did with the indigenous people. "

The Lebs, described by Jones as a visceral account of men at Punchbowl High, describes the treatment of women by men.

"They call them sluts or virgins and insult a whole group of people there, and they are also funny, anti-Semitic," Jones said.

"You have these conflicting and contradictory and sometimes violent characters, but I think this is your privilege as a writer to write about them because they are real and we never get this perspective."

In response, Mohammed Ahmad said he was not interested in telling a positive story about Arabs and Muslims, simply to counter all negative stories.

"My job as a writer is to represent the truth as I see it, and the truth of the experiences I grew up was that we had a lot of antisocial behavior in our community," he said.

Clarke, whose book The Hate Race is a biographical novel of her experience of growing racism, said that the way to challenge the growing perception of African youth as gang members was to diversify the stories about African communities.

She argued for a story with a cacophony of experiences about growing up in Australia.

"People help their fathers with their cars" or people who become dancers or actors. This wealth of the African-Australian community that we simply can not see everywhere, "she said.

Laguna, author of The Choke, spoke with her fellow panelists about how their job, as fiction writers, could break through racial divisions in Australia.

Laguna pointed to her reading of The Hate Race and said that her world was expanded by reading about the experiences of another.

"I felt tremendous compassion for the fight you had endured as a child," she told Clarke.

"Although I was aware of racism in those particular decades and that decade, I felt it in a much more visceral, more personal way and, I guess, that's what we have to offer [as writers]is not it, "she said.

Marsden said that the current negative focus on the African-Australian community was the latest version of a cultural phenomenon that was carried out across generations.

"At the moment African people are in Melbourne, but next year it will undoubtedly be a different group," he said.

"It was a different group in my life – it was Greek and Italian people when I was a child, then it was Vietnamese people and other Asian people, and then they are African people, and Aboriginal people are kind of chronically treated in this respect. way for the whole life.

"I think we have to look at why as a society we find the difference so difficult and confrontational."


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