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Live from Australia: An Evening with Alexis Wright

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Online via Zoom


Join us in a special evening conversation with Alexis Wright, author of the epic new novel Praiseworthy and “arguably the most important Aboriginal Australian — or simply Australian — writer alive today,” according to The New York Times.

In this intimate virtual event, hosted by Upstart & Crow cofounder Ian Gill and co-presented with the Vancouver Writers Fest, readers will be immersed in Wright’s incredible and groundbreaking career as a novelist, as well as her work as a writer and activist in Australia.

Wright is not alone in thinking that colonialism and its handmaiden, racism, is alive and not well in Australia. Recognition and reconciliation hardly scratch the surface of the deep-rooted antipathy and outright fear that non-Indigenous Australians have for First Nations. It’s ugly, and Wright doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is.

Gill and Wright will discuss the author’s fourth and latest novel, Praiseworthy, an epic that pushes allegory and language to its limit; a unique masterpiece that bends time and reality, opening new literary vistas; a cry of outrage against oppression and disadvantage; and a fable for the end of days. The novel is a gritty, gutsy satire about Indigenous people themselves, but also more unsparingly about small town racists and big talking governments.

The plot, as summarized by publisher New Directions: “In a small town in the north of Australia, a mysterious cloud heralds both an ecological catastrophe and a gathering of the ancestors. A crazed visionary looks to donkeys to solve the global climate crisis and the economic dependency of the Aboriginal people.

“His wife, seeking solace from his madness, follows the dance of butterflies and scours the internet to find out how her Aboriginal/Chinese family could be repatriated to China. One of their sons, named Aboriginal Sovereignty, is determined to commit suicide. The other, Tommyhawk, wishes his brother dead so that he can pursue his dream of becoming white and powerful.”

Get your tickets here.

To coincide with the release of Praiseworthy, New Directions is re-releasing Wright’s 2006 novel Carpentaria, itself a searing collection of “stories of trouble” that point to an infinite divide in which, “in the end, black and white were both crawling on the ground in reconciliation. Both saying they were plain jack of each other.”

Canadians have much to learn from this most perceptive and fearless commentator and chronicler of “country,” the only reliable source of solace for a people who are living in a made up country rendered unrecognizable and irreconcilable to those who have lived there since time out of mind.

This event is Wright’s only launch event for Canadian readers. It is virtual and open to anyone, and there are three ticket options:

$35 — Ticket + copy of book (pickup at our Granville Island studio, or shipping option)
$10 — Ticket + support our initiatives and Thistalalh Library, an Indigenous library in Heiltsuk territory on the Central Coast of B.C.
$0 — Ticket only.

Get your tickets here.

Thank you to the Vancouver Writers Fest and New Directions Publishing for partnering with us on this event.

More about the author:

Alexis Wright, called “a towering figure of letters” by the New York Times, is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book, she has published three works of non-fiction: Take Power, an oral history of the Central Land Council; Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory; and Tracker, an award-winning collective memoir of Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. Her work has been translated into Chinese, Polish, French and Italian. She held the position of Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne between 2017-2022. Wright is the only author to win both the Miles Franklin Award (in 2007 for Carpentaria) and the Stella Prize (in 2018 for Tracker).

More about the host:

Ian Gill is an Australian-born journalist, author, conservationist and bookseller. He is co-creator of Salmon Nation, and co-owner of the independent Vancouver literary arts studio Upstart & Crow. He divides his time between unceded ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ (Tla-o-qui-aht) territory off the west coast of Vancouver Island, and the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations.

Praise for Praiseworthy:

“A shimmering vision of the legacy of colonialism in Australia, and the reasons for optimism in hoping for greater justice and autonomy for its Indigenous peoples.” — Kirkus Reviews

“This freewheeling and heartbreaking masterpiece from Aboriginal Australian author Alexis Wright brims with the magic of myth and the painful realities of present-day climate change. At once lush and relentless, Wright’s looping tale combines magical realism, absurdism, and maximalism in a rich depiction of contemporary Aboriginal life. This is unforgettable.” — Publishers Weekly (starred)

“I’m awed by the range, experiment and political intelligence of Wright’s work: she is vital on the subject of land and people.” — Robert Macfarlane, The New York Times Book Review


Praiseworthy blew me away… If you think you know what assimilation is, you should read Praiseworthy and think again.” Australian Book Review

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