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Podcasts - Biography memoir

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Nikki Gemmell on love, female creativity and finding your voice in Dissolve

In this deeply personal reflection on women's lives and creative desires Nikki Gemmell explores the struggle she experienced in finding her own creative space. Dissolve is a meditation on those difficult times in establishing herself as a writer, but also a conversation with all young women who are seeking to fulfil their own creative desires.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Nikki Gemmell about emerging from the humiliation of heartbreak in her early twenties, building confidence as a writer and how to 'un-lady' yourself.

 


In my defence i have no defenceJohn Doyle on an Australian sporting legend in Blessed: The Breakout Year of Rampaging Roy Slaven

It's 1967 in Lithgow (the 'arsehole of the universe') and a young Roy Slaven is a promising student at the De La Salle Academy. He is already demonstrating early evidence as a sporting savant. Blessed with uncanny abilities with the ball, Roy experiences a moment of religious enlightenment when Uncle Baz presents him with an Australian Rugby League team jersey.

John Doyle was right there beside Slaven during this formative year and when Slaven approached him to record those momentous times in book form, he could hardly refuse. The result is Blessed - an honest and truthful account of the life and loves, the trials and tribulations, and the triumphs and tragedies of the boy who was to become the man, Rampaging Roy Slaven.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to John Doyle about the genius behind the torpedo pass, what constitutes 'Catholic values' and the making of Rampaging Roy Slaven.


In my defence i have no defence

Tim Richards on the joys of Australian train travel in Heading South

Tim Richards is a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet guidebook contributor who loves chasing down a story with an historical angle. He decided to shake up his life by embarking on an epic train journey across Australia.

Covering some 7,000 kilometres, his train journey began in far north Queensland and boarding iconic trains like the Indian Pacific, Overland and Spirit of Queensland. Along the way Tim encounters giant crocs, archetypal Australian publicans and the ghosts of Australia's pioneering past

In my defence i have no defence

Auntie Di on forgiving the past and discovering her true identity in Daughter of the River Country

Dianne O'Brien (Auntie Di) grew up believing her Irish adoptive mother Val was her birth mother. When Val died while Dianne was still a teenager her whole life changed. Raped at the age of 15 and sentenced to time at the notorious Parramatta Girls Home, Auntie Di suffered years of horrific domestic abuse and a cruel betrayal.

At the age of 36 Auntie Di discovered she was a victim of the 'stolen generation' and is actually a Yorta Yorta woman. This revelation reawakens her fighting spirit and helps her come to terms with a traumatic past.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Auntie Di about surviving child abuse and domestic violence, the power of forgiveness, and finding pathways to a better future.



In my defence i have no defence

Larissa Behrendt on the mother-daughter trip of a life time in After Story

When Indigenous lawyer Jasmine takes her mother Della on an historical tour of the UK's most revered literary sites, Jasmine hopes it will heal old wounds and help them reconcile their past. While Jasmine immerses herself in her literary idols, Della rediscovers the wisdom of her own culture and storytelling. As both women grapple with their place in others' lives, a powerful reminder of a mysterious family tragedy, buried in their past, propels old secrets to the surface.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Larissa Behrendt about the joy of fiction, her journey to the top echelons of the law and academia, and the bright future of Indigenous storytelling.



In my defence i have no defence

 Sinéad Stubbins on achieving self perfection, and her debut book In My Defence I Have No Defence

Sinéad Stubbins has always known that there was a better version of herself lying just outside of her grasp. That if she listened to the right song or won the right (any) award or knew about whisky or followed the right Instagram psychologist or drank kombucha, ever, or enacted the correct 70-step Korean skincare regime, she would become her ‘best self’.

In My Defence, I Have No Defence raises the white flag on trying to live up to impossible standards. Wild and funny and wickedly relatable, it is one woman’s reckoning with her complete inability to self-improve and a hilarious reprieve for anyone who has ever struggled to be better.

In this episode, Sinéad joins Heather Lewis to chat about revisiting all the awkward moments of her life, and how to avoid being too self deprecating.



Year of loving kindness to myself

Brigid Lowry on kindness, honesty and nourishing the soul in A Year of Loving Kindness to Myself

It's not easy to maintain grace and good humour through the peaks and troughs of modern living. Throw in a pandemic, political upheaval and environmental disaster and you've got a recipe for a life of endless worry.

In a time when mental health is more important than ever, Brigid Lowry offers thoughts on living simply and learning how to nourish yourself and those around you. Informed by contemporary psychology and Zen Buddhism, Brigid provides insights into everything from grief and loss to love and friendship, and the importance of self-care.

In this episode, Gregory Dobbs chats to Brigid Lowry about maintaining a positive mind-set, finding joy in life, and cultivating a greater appreciation for hot and cold running water.



Helen Vines on separating fact from fiction in Eve Langley and the Pea Pickers

In 1942 Eve Langley published her first novel The Pea Pickers to critical acclaim. Hailed as a tour de force, it tells the story of two feisty sisters who wander the Australian countryside dressed as men.

In Eve Langley and the Pea Pickers, Helen Vines deftly unravels the threads of a life story that became curiously entangled with the author's works of fiction. This compelling new biography paints a portrait of a complex family constellation plagued by mental illness and obscured by a veil of secrecy.

In this episode, Gregory Dobbs chats to Helen Vines about piecing together a story from previously unexamined letters and repositioning The Pea Pickers as a landmark in Australian literature.



Kyle Mewburn on a life in transition in her memoir Faking It

Kyle Mewburn grew up in the sunburnt, unsophisticated Brisbane suburbs of the 1960s and '70s in a household with little love and no books, with a lifelong feeling of being somehow wrong – like ‘strawberry jam in a spinach can'.

In this book, Kyle describes this early life and her journey to becoming her own person – a celebrated children’s book author, a husband and, finally, a woman. She shares the dreams, the prejudice and the agony of growing up trans and coming out, the lengthy physical ordeal of facial feminisation surgery, and her experiences as a woman – good, bad and creepy.

In this episode, Heather Lewis chats to Kyle Mewburn about the process of writing her first book for adults and first memoir, and about the trans experience.



Kathryn Heyman on her memoir, Fury, and summoning the power to redraw the roadmap of her life

Kathryn Heyman's childhood was marked by violence, poverty and chaos. She was left with no real example of how to create a decent life but she had one thing in her favour – she was a reader. The power of stories provided a means of escape and a pathway to a reimagined life.

After experiencing the trauma of sexual assault as a young woman, Kathryn made the decision to put her past behind her. She found herself as a deckhand on board a fishing trawler in the Gulf country. Here, among tough working men and the treachery of the sea she rediscovered her true self.

Kathryn Heyman chats to Gregory Dobbs about writing a difficult memoir, rejecting the constrictions of patriarchy and the transformative power of words.







Rod Barton on his accidental entry into the world of espionage in The Life of a Spy

When Rod Barton applied for a job at the Australian Department of Defence he had no idea where it would lead. For the next few decades he found himself disarming militia in Mogadishu, flying to Baghdad as a UN weapons inspector and hunting for Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction.

In this extraordinary behind-the-scenes account of a life straight out of an adventure novel Rod Barton unmasks a world of lies, secrecy and deception ruled by politics rather than truth.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Rod Barton about his life as an intelligence officer, working for the UN and the CIA and stepping out from behind the shadows.







 

Aaron Smith on Australia's cultural and moral divide in The Rock
 

Aaron Smith's new memoir holds up a unique mirror to Australia. What he sees is at once amazing, disturbing and revealing.

The Rock explores the failings of our nation's character, its unresolved past and its uncertain future from the vantage point of its most northerly outpost, Thursday Island. Smith was the last editor, fearless journalist and the paperboy of Australia's most northerly newspaper, The Torres News, a small independent regional tabloid that, until it folded in late 2019, was the voice of a predominantly Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal readership for 63 years across some of the most remote and little understood communities in Australia.

The Rock is a story of self-discovery where Smith grapples to understand a national identity marred by its racist underbelly, where he is transplanted from his white-boy privileged suburban life to being a racial and cultural minority, and an outsider. Peppered with his experiences, Smith gradually and sensitively becomes embedded in island life while vividly capturing the endless and often farcical parade of personalities and politicians including Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott.

In this episode, Aaron Smith joins Max Lewis to unpack his thoughts around The Rock, and how his time on Thursday Island has shaped his life.


 

Ronni Kahn on finding her calling in A Repurposed Life
 
As the owner of a successful events company, throwing away huge volumes of leftover food at the end of the day came with the territory. But when Ronni Kahn hit midlife, she found herself no longer able to turn a blind eye to her food waste problem. Hand delivering the untouched food to homeless shelters around Sydney became her renegade solution. Little did she know that fixing her small problem at work would lead her to unlock a hidden purpose at the very core of her inner life.
 

Now founder and CEO of the food rescue organisation OzHarvest, Ronni leads hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers with the goal to nourish Australia. She serves in an advisory capacity to government and is an instrumental leader in changing federal laws to improve social justice and environmental policies.

A Repurposed Life is the story of how Ronni found her voice, her heart and her deepest calling. From her early years growing up under the brutal system of apartheid South Africa, to a socialist commune in Israel, Ronni finally settled in Australia to discover a profound new way of living. Shared with the humour, warmth and energy that have made her an internationally renowned keynote speaker, this heartfelt exploration of the choices that define us will speak to anyone seeking a more passionate expression of being alive.

In this podcast, Ronni joins Greg Dobbs to chat about finding her calling in OzHarvest, and the process of co-writing the memoir with her daughter-in-law, Jessica Chapnik Kahn.


 

Heather Morris on the art of listening in Stories of Hope
 
Heather Morris, author of the internationally bestselling novels The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka's Journey, grew up on a farm in rural New Zealand. On her way back across the paddocks from school, Heather would visit her great-grandfather and listen to his experiences of war - stories he told only Heather. From a young age Heather discovered that people would tell her their stories if she stopped and listened.

In Stories of Hope, Heather Morris will explore the art of listening - a skill she employed when she met Lale Sokolov, the Tattooist of Auschwitz. It was her ability to listen that led him to entrust her with his story. Stories of Hope will examine Heather's extraordinary journey, in the form of a series of beautifully rendered tales of the people she has met, the remarkable stories they have shared with her, and the lessons they hold for us all.

In this episode, Greg Dobbs chats to Heather Morris about why she wanted to write Stories of Hope, and the experience of writing her first memoir.



 

Andrew Boe on Australia's flawed justice system in The Truth Hurts

Drawing on his experiences as a child of Burmese migrants fleeing a military junta and his evolution from a naive law clerk, too shy to speak, into a lawyer whose ponytailed flamboyance and unbridled willingness to speak truth to power riled many within the legal establishment, Andrew Boe delves into cases he found unable to leave behind. These cases have shaped who he has become.

Taking us from a case of traditional punishment gone wrong in the Gibson Desert to deaths in police custody on Palm Island and in Yuendumu in the Northern Territory - places where race relations are often stalled in a colonial time warp - to an isolated rural home, and the question of what is self-defence after decades of domestic abuse; to cases of children abandoned, 'stolen' and then fought over; and into prison interview rooms and courthouses around the country where Boe defended serial killers, rapists, child sex offenders, murderers as well as the odd politician - he holds fast to the premise that either every one of us is entitled to the presumption of innocence or none of us are.

In this episode, Andrew joins Max Lewis to expand on The Truth Hurts - explaining our misconception that the justice system is designed to find the truth, and the effect of the Black Lives Matter movement on this country's tragedy of Indigenous deaths in custody.


 

'Beyond the Pale': Adrian Tame on his time at Australia's most notorious paper in The Awful Truth

Hailed as ‘a fearless exposer of folly, vice and crime’ when it first hit the streets in the 1890s, Truth was later condemned by a High Court Judge as ‘a wretched little paper, reeking of filth, injurious to the health of house servants and young girls’.

Adrian Tame knows that better than anyone as he worked for Truth for more than a decade as a reporter and news editor. In the years it was owned by the Murdoch family he worked alongside young Rupert as he cut his teeth on the shock horror scandals that graced the pages of Truth when it was selling a whopping 400,000 copies a week.

Funny, often outrageous and always thoroughly entertaining, The Awful Truth is a rollercoaster ride through an colourful era of newspapers and larger-than-life reporters that we will never see the like of again.

In this episode, Adrian joins Max Lewis to chat about revisiting his scandalous time at 'Truth' (including a Bikie story too shocking for the book), and his opinions on journalism today.


 

Julie Sprigg on the life of a physiotherapist in Ethiopia in Small Steps

As a child, Julie dreamed of being somewhere else, of making a difference. Now, she can’t wait to meet the nuns she will live with and the children she will provide physiotherapy for in Ethiopia.

But Julie has trouble sticking to convent rules and soon finds herself wondering how much difference a single physio can make anyway.

When she takes a teaching role at a university, Julie finally feels closer to fulfilling her dreams – training Ethiopia’s first physiotherapists, treating paediatric patients, and losing her heart to a handsome colleague.

Then civil unrest reaches the university, forcing Julie’s students to choose between their safety and their future. When it comes to being a part of change, why do all steps feel like small steps?

In this episode, Max Lewis joins Julie as she reflects on her time in Ethiopia.


 

'Fear isn't just natural, it's necessary': Eva Holland on the science behind phobias in Nerve
 

In 2015, Eva Holland was forced to confront her greatest fear when her mother unexpectedly had a stroke and passed away. After the shock and grief subsided, Holland was sent on a deep dive into the science of fear, digging into an array of universal and personal questions.

On her journey, Holland meets with scientists who are working to eliminate phobias with a single pill, she explores the lives of the few individuals who suffer from a rare disease that prevents them from ever feeling fear, and she immerses herself in her own fears, including hurling herself out of a plane.

In this episode, Max Lewis chats with Eva Holland about her debut Nerve, to find out more about her journey into her own fears, and how she came out the other side.

 

 
 

 

Shannon Molloy on 'Fourteen', his memoir of growing up gay in Central Queensland
 
[CONTENT WARNING: This podcast features discussions of homophobia, mental health and suicide. Furthermore, the intro contains homophobic slurs/language, violence and references to suicide. If you'd like to skip this section, skip to 1:20 in the podcast.]

The debut book of Sydney-based Journalist and reporter Shannon Molloy, Fourteen is a story about his fourteenth year of life as a gay kid at an all-boys rugby-mad Catholic school in regional Queensland. It was a year of torment, bullying and betrayal – not just at the hands of his peers, but by adults who were meant to protect him.

Shannon joined Max Lewis to chat about the cathartic process of writing the book, the unfortunate fate of Safe Schools and how it may have helped a teenager like him, and the best pop bangers of the late 90s.

 

 

 

'Australia saved me': Ayik Chut Deng on life as a Sudanese child soldier in 'The Lost Boy'

[CONTENT WARNING: This podcast contains descriptions of war and mental illness that may upset listeners. Discretion is advised. In addition, the intro contains descriptions of violence against a child; skip to 1:34 in the podcast if you'd like to avoid this.]

As a boy living in the Dinka tribe in what is now South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, Ayik Chut Deng was a member of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). During his time as a child soldier, he witnessed unspeakable violence and was regularly tortured by older boys. At age nineteen, he and his family escaped the conflict in Sudan and resettled in Toowoomba, Australia.

Overcoming a childhood filled with torture and war was a process of lifelong learning, choices and challenges that included a remarkable chance encounter with a figure from his past, and an appearance on national television.

In this episode, Ayik Chut Deng joined Max Lewis to chat about the writing of his memoir The Lost Boy: Tales of a Child Soldier, and how he overcame unimaginable trauma to become the man he is today.

 

When Time Stopped Ariana Neumann

 

'He would wake up screaming': Ariana Neumann on uncovering her father's past in When Time Stopped
 
In When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains, Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: years spent hiding in plain sight in wartorn Berlin, the annihilation of dozens of family members in the Holocaust, and the courageous choice to build anew.

Ariana Neumann joined Gregory Dobbs to chat about how the process of uncovering her father's past.

 


Displaced: A Rural Life by John Kinsella

 

John Kinsella on dialogue, rapacity and living a rural life in his memoir Displaced: A rural life 
 
John Kinsella's memoir of his rural life takes us deep into the heart of what it means to belong and unbelong. The joys and travails of childhood, adult addictions, missteps and changing directions are acutely captured in poignant and poetic detail.

In his most intimate prose work to date, Kinsella never shies from writing about the violence and intolerance of those scared of difference, and the ways in which his ethics have sometimes been met with disdain or outright hostility. But with nuance and humour he also celebrates rural community and its willingness to lend a hand.

In this episode, John joins Max Lewis to chat about belonging, creating a dialogue, decolonisation and anti-consumerism, and the best vegan meal.


 

Emily Clements on sex, self and travel in her memoir The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters is a sharply written story of self-redemption from an exciting young voice in Australian memoir that dissects the patterns of blame and shame women can form around their bodies and relationships.

In this episode, Emily chats with Emma Harvey about the process of re-visiting her tumultuous time in Vietnam, the intersection between beauty standards, self esteem, and language, and her favourite Vietnamese phrases. 


 
'It wasn't pretty': Benjamin Gilmour on his darkest month working as a paramedic in Sydney
 

Benjamin Gilmour has been a paramedic for the past twenty years. He has seen his fair share of drama. But the summer of 2008 remains etched in his memory for the very worst reasons.

The Gap is a vivid portrait of the lead-up to Christmas; an unflinching, no-holds-barred look at what happens after the triple-zero call is made – the drugs, nightclubs, brothels, drunk rich kids, billionaires, domestic disputes, the elderly, emergency births, even a kidnapping.

In this episode, Max Lewis chats to Benjamin Gilmour about the arduous process of writing The Gap, and reflecting on his month from hell over a decade on.


 

'I will always be sad when I read those chapters': Mary Moody on cancer, compost and cracking on 

If you'd told Mary Moody when she was 21 that she was going to grow up writing columns about compost, she would have thrown her hands up in horror.

In 1971, off the back of a cadetship at Women's Weekly, Mary wanted to become a TV news reporter. Unfortunately for her, in those days, only men were afforded that gig. Instead she forged a diverse career as a 'show-biz' journalist, a 'hippy-dippy' stay-at-home mum, host of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, bestselling memoirist and finally, an 'accidental tour guide.'

The latter is the inspiration for her latest book, a memoir and adventure story about leading botanical treks in France, Morocco, Spain, Mongolia and the Himalayas. In this episode, Mary talks to Gregory Dobbs about learning, loving and losing a life partner.


I'm Staying at Richard's

'We had no idea what life was going to be': Bernadette Agius on raising a son with Down syndrome

 ‘It was cathartic, it was sad, it was humbling, it was joyful. I feel very exposed. But I don’t regret it.’ – Bernadette Agius on writing I’m Staying at Richard’s, a heartwarming memoir on the joys and challenges of raising a son with Down syndrome.

 In this episode, Bernadette breaks down misconceptions, shares some hilarious memories (like that time Richard unwrapped the entire family’s Christmas presents) and recalls how Richard reacted when he first read the book.

 


 

Beyond Words by Jacqueline Kent

 

Jacqueline Kent on falling in love with the man behind Wake in Fright

Jacqueline Kent was working as a book editor when she was assigned a set of humorous short stories by Kenneth Cook, author of the classic horror novel Wake in Fright.

Her dealings with Cook resulted in a 'volcanic' relationship and a brief marriage between two lovers of words. Jacqueline writes beautifully about her time with Ken in her new memoir, Beyond Words.

In this episode, Angus Dalton asks Jacqueline about the enduring legacy of Wake in Fright, a butterfly farm, and the changes she's watched unfold across the Australian book industry.

 


 

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

 

BRI LEE, author of Eggshell Skull, is furious about the Australian legal system (and chickpeas)

Please note: This podcast contains discussions of sexual abuse.

BRI LEE is the author of Eggshell Skull, a bestselling memoir about Bri's time as a Judge's Associate in Queensland, witnessing institutional injustices faced by women, children and minorities in sexual assault trials. The book is also a devastating coming-of-age story, as Bri’s recounts her own journey through the legal system as a plaintiff in her own case.

In this episode, Bri talks to Good Reading about the frustrations and triumphs of writing such a book, the ongoing fight for legislative change, and ‘f***ing chickpeas.’


 

A Diamond in the Dust

 

FRAUKE BOLTEN-BOSHAMMER on pink diamonds and red dust

In 1981 Frauke Bolten-Boshammer left her beloved Germany to begin a farm with her husband, Frederich, in the isolated town of Kununurra in the Kimberley.

Tragedy soon followed, and Frauke was left alone to run a farm and raise a family in the Western Australian outback. But a discovery of global significance made by geologists nearby changed the course of Frauke's life forever.

A Diamond in the Dust is the story of how Frauke pioneered an outback diamond empire and put a tiny outback town on the world map. In this podcast, Frauke shares her experiences contending with crocodiles thrashing through Christmas lunch and offers the wisdom she has gleaned from a life marked by sadness, perseverance, and love in the outback.