By: Tamerlaine & Ramona  – top cultural reading and listening picks for 2017

Parag Khanna – Connectography
Tamerlaine: Secretary Pezzulo from DIBP raved about this book in his presentation at the Crawford forum. Luckily for me, the author Parag Khanna was at the event and I had the good fortune to discuss it with him! This book describes how our world has changed, and how mega-cities and the connectivity among them will shape our futures. An essential read for anyone working on internationalisation or globalising business models. Khanna is described as “a leading global futurist and strategist, world traveller, and best-selling author. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore”.

Magda Szubanski – Reckoning: A Memoir
Ramona: A trusted friend recommended I read this, and I couldn’t put it down. I could well relate to Magda’s challenges of growing up as the child of migrants in suburban Melbourne, in a family full of secrets, and struggling to find a place to belong. Her voice on the page is as real and clear as we hear her on the screen. Reckoning has won six awards and is one of my favourite memoirs.

Shankar Vedantam – The Hidden Brain
Tamerlaine: Ramona suggested this book to me and I really enjoyed it. It’s a fun easy read which provides fascinating insights into unconscious bias.
Ramona: One of the best books I’ve read for understanding how our hidden brain can lead us to exercise our biases while denying they exist; determine how we’ll respond in a crisis; blind us to our privilege; lead us to steal; all the while believing we are making decisions based on logic, evidence, character and merit. Shankar Vedantam is a fabulous story teller and brings an important scientific subject to life.

Mei Fong – One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment
Ramona: Mei Fong is a brilliant story teller who introduces us to a vast array of people impacted by China’s One Child policy: the eternal bachelors and their desperate parents who will never see grandchildren, the surrogate mothers providing babies for those who can’t conceive, the government officials paid to spy on those who have illegal second children, the parents who have lost their one and only child and cannot have another. Throughout this story, she deals with her own challenges of conceiving through IVF, so her experience is personal as well as political. If you’ve ever wondered about the wider impacts of China’s One Child policy this is the book to read.

Rebecca Huntley – Still Lucky: Why you should feel optimistic about Australia and its people
Tamerlaine: We are so fortunate to share an office with Pino Migliorino and his team at the Cultural Perspectives Group. Pino often hosts drinks for friends and colleagues with interesting guest speakers – Rebecca Huntley was one of his recent guests. Rebecca is one of Australia’s most experienced and knowledgeable social researchers. For more than a decade, Rebecca has interviewed and listened to thousands of Australians – in their homes, at work and in Australian Board Rooms. This book is a summary of who we are, where we’re heading and what Australians are really thinking. The good news is that we’re “more generous, more progressive, and more alike than we think we are – and we are better than our day-to-day political discourse would suggest.”

Anita Heiss – Am I Black Enough For You?
Ramona: Anita Heiss is a Wiradjuri woman, an author, poet, academic and social commentator. In 2011 she was one of nine people accused by Andrew Bolt of choosing to identify as Aboriginal for personal gain. The group successfully sued Bolt in the Federal Court. This book is Anita’s personal response to his accusation. Growing up in Malabar, Sydney with an Austrian father who migrated alone to Australia, and a Wiradjuri mother surrounded by her own family, Anita’s identity was multi-layered but very strongly Aboriginal. She’s a city girl who hates camping, loves make-up and heels and a proper bed to sleep in. Her memoir, as does all of her writing, challenges the stereotype of what it takes to be accepted as a “real” Aboriginal person.

Mohsin Hamid – Discontent and Its Civilisations.
Ramona: We rarely consider the impact of internal terrorist attacks and American drone bombings on the daily lives of Pakistani citizens. Mohsin Hamid’s stories offer us that perspective. Born in Lahore, he moved with his parents to the USA when he was 4, he then chose to move back to Lahore with his wife and young child as an adult. This collection of essays deals with migration, exile, identity and belonging. My favourite story is of how he learned to speak English at the age of 4. At Beasley Intercultural we love to challenge and shift perspective. This very readable book does just that.

Tamerlaine: I love catching up on what’s happening in the world through listening to Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue on Radio National. A few episodes I’ve enjoyed recently:

A Foreign Affair: Rising tensions about Chinese influence in Australia and the region, and the Rohingya crisis are discussed with Michael Wesley and Tim Costello

The Making of Vietnam: ‘The mountains are like the bones of the earth. Water is its blood.’ said Trinh Hoai Duc, an ethnic Chinese scholar and poet writing about Vietnam in 1820. Water plays a vital role in the Vietnamese life, economy and mythology. Southeast Asia scholar Ben Kiernan traces the history of the aquatic nation.

Little Soldiers: An American Boy in Chinese School: A fascinating personal story exploring how the culture of our education system shapes our thinking and relationships to one another. This includes an interview with the author of the book of the same name, which is now on my holiday reading list.

The New Chinese: Barry Li, author of “The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia” speaks candidly about his life in China, and Australia, as a modern Chinese person. Fascinating insights into one of the biggest new language groups – Mandarin speakers and recent Chinese migrants in multicultural Australia.

The Missing Asian-Australians in our Institutions: Ramesh Thakur argues the ethnic diversity within Australia is not represented in our political parties or in our major institutions. As political leaders discuss our role in the Asian region, be it economical or for security, countries like Canada, are embracing their ethnic diversity and electing them into government.

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