Quick questions with Kate Holden – WORD Christchurch

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival on from 24 to 28 August.

Kate Holden has written memoirs In My Skin and The Romantic: Italian nights and days. She has had features, reviews, essays and short stories published in all the major Australian journals and newspapers. She was recently on RNZ Sunday Morning and spoke with Wallace Chapman about heroin, sex work and lessons learnt.

Kate Holden. Image supplied.
Kate Holden. Image supplied.

Kate Holden appears in:
Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll, Sat 27 Aug, 4.45pm
Breaking Through to the Other Side: Memoir Problems, Sun 28 Aug, 9.30am
Work/ Sex, Sun 28 Aug, 12.30pm

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I’m looking forward to seeing Christchurch for the first time! I’ve never had the chance before. And I’m hoping the city is good at warm cosy writing/reading venues.

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries even though I’m not good at staying quietly in them for long. Most months I plunder my local library for books for me and my son; I’ve been a library plunderer since I was a kid. What marvellous, generous, civilised places they are.

What would be your “desert island book”?

My desert island book would be the Faber Book of Modern Verse. I always find awe and beauty in those pages.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I don’t know if it’s interesting but I have never (yet!) slept under the stars, seen ‘The Godfather’ or driven a dodgem car. I feel like I’m letting the Antipodes down!

Kate Holden appears in WORD Christchurch at:

Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll, Sat 27 Aug, 4.45pm
Breaking Through to the Other Side: Memoir Problems, Sun 28 Aug, 9.30am (workshop)
Work/ Sex, Sun 28 Aug, 12.30pm

More

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity

CoverForgiveness is in short supply in this world. It’s a nice idea but it’s hard to be forgiving. I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity is a gentle memoir about forgiveness and perseverance, set in arguably one of the most unforgiving and hostile environments in the world – Israel. Or Palestine. Depending on your views.

The author, Palestinian Muslim and medical doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish, knows loss and hardship. He lost his three teenage daughters when a tank shell hit their home during a Israeli military offensive targeting their neighbourhood in the Occupied Territories.

Somehow, he’s managed to reject any bitter and wrathful feelings toward the Israeli military and the state of Israel in general, and maintain a hopeful vision for the future. Izzeldin is a medical professional who’s worked in Israeli hospitals, alongside loyal Israeli colleagues, who share common concern for reproductive health and children’s well-being.

Written chronologically, Dr Abuelaish recounts his early years beginning with his birth in a Gaza refugee camp. Then the story moves us along the road to studying medicine in Egypt, London and Harvard. A path which was paved with ongoing hardship, hard work, and sometimes, sheer luck. Almost every aspect of daily life was hampered – and this made his attempts at educational and economic mobility almost impossible.

Palestinians are used to negotiating labyrinthine checkpoints, bizarre and ever-changing regulations, and regular bureaucratic barrages. And it was no different for Mr Abuelaish during his academic pursuits. Somehow he managed to maintain his composure and sanity, and come out the other end as a highly regarded medical professional and the first Palestinian to work in an Israeli hospital treating Christian, Jewish and Muslim children. Really quite miraculous.

The military assault on his family home comes in a sort of looming climax that you anticipate as you begin reading from the start (after reading the synopsis on the back of the book!).

Despite the seemingly insurmountable hardships, its not a bitter or angry recollection and commentary, but a book which seeks a realistic and progressive (not aggressive) future in Palestinian/Israeli relations. Naturally the narrative is infused with personal impressions, experiences and details of family and community life which is written in such a way that makes you feel like you connect somehow. This animates his story and the stories of other Palestinians and Israelis.

Some might say he’s a dreamer, but so far it seems to be working for him as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and highly regarded medical professional. You decide.

Quite the tear jerker. Check it out.

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“Think Bill Bryson, But Only On Books”

CoverIn Outside of a Dog: a Bibliomemoir,  Rick Gekoski connects 25 books that have been special to him at different stages in his life. These books range from Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr Seuss to Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein and twenty-three others in-between.

Gekoski writes with remarkable candour and by the end of the book I felt as if he was a close friend. Which is why, when I encountered him in the lift at the hotel, I greeted him as if we were old acquaintances who were delighted to meet up again. Of course he doesn’t know me from a bar of soap – he must get a lot of that in his travels.

He is billed as being “The Bill Bryson of the book world” – I can only imagine how annoying that must be for him, but the truth is that this is a very entertaining book which is also certain to inspire you to make a list of the twenty-five books that exemplify your life. If you do decide to do this and then turn it into a book, Gekoski has this advice for you: “Find the right language to capture the form of life you are observing and participating in. Take some risks and above all, make it fun!”

In his festival event Gekoski spoke to John Carey and it was like being a voyeur in a gentleman’s club. It was as if they had quite forgotten that we were there. Carey spoke us through some of the stages in Gekoski’s life and the books that were connected to those stages. In his talk he revealed not only some of the authors whom he revered , but also a few who hadn’t impressed. He is no fan of Harold Pinter or Joan Didion and felt that Paul Theroux was one of the most difficult authors he had ever met.

When it came to book signing time, I asked him the question I had not asked in the session which is: why he is so uncomfortable in libraries. He replied “Because they give me an anxiety attack. I am overwhelmed by too much choice” and then he wrote in my copy of his book : “To Roberta who is better at libraries than I am!”