On Friday, four writers talked with political philosopher and commentator Dr Tim Soutphommasane about Extraordinary Stories of Migration. Majok Tulba, Kooshyar Karimi, Pauline Nguyen and Arnold Zable each have an extraordinary personal life story.
Tulba is the head of the charity SudanCare and an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He was born in Sudan and had to flee his village when the Sudanese Armed Forces invaded it. He spent most of his time between refugee camps until he turned 16 and received an Australian visa. He now lives in Sydney with his family. Majok explained that even though he enjoyed his freedom here “I’d love to go back and run around barefooted in my village, that’s where my heart is.”
Kooshyar is the son of a Jewish mother and grew up in the slums of Tehran. He became a successful doctor and writer, but in 1988 he was kidnapped by the Iranian secret police and only released after being tortured and forced to choose between becoming a spy for his captors or being tortured to death. His memoir I Confess: Revelations in Exile is the story of how he survived and fled. He now lives in Sydney and works as a GP, and said he wrote the book “to show the world what is happening.”’
Pauline, writer and restaurateur, is the author of culinary and literary memoir Secrets of the Red Lantern, winner of Best Asian Cookbook in 2008, the same year she won Newcomer Writer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. With her parents and brother Luke she fled from Vietnam in 1977, spent a year in a refugee camp in Thailand and from there came to Australia, where the family settled in Cabramatta.
Arnold was born in New Zealand. His parents were Jewish refugees and they moved early in his life to Melbourne. He is president of International PEN in Melbourne, a prolific author who writes about memory and history, displacement and community, and is a human rights advocate.
The room was full to capacity and a large crowd gathered around the speakers that broadcast the discussion to the pier outside. The audience was silent and captivated by the stories told, extraordinary stories of migration and survival.