Jay Daniel Thompson

Transactions opens with a scene of duplicity and murder. In the following pages, Ali Alizadeh plunges readers into a ‘whirlpool of greed and apathy’. The collection revolves around an assortment of men and women from different parts of the world. We encounter Anna Heinesen, a Danish charity founder who is revealed to be a sex trafficker and religious zealot; Samia, a rich and racist Emirati student who surfs cyberspace under the alias ‘The Alchemist’; Karina, a Ukrainian sex worker who winds up doing a B-grade horror film in Australia; and a nameless Iranian refugee who criticises ‘pampered Westerners’, but who has sinister secrets of his own. The lives of these characters intersect in unpredictable ways.

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In The Year It All Fell Down, journalist Bob Ellis revisits 2011, a year that, as the title suggests, produced social and political change on a global scale. The text provides a month-by-month account of this dramatic time. Ellis covers the Queensland floods and the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami ...

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A Flower Between the Cracks, South Australian writer Helen Sage’s first book, chronicles her experience of caring for a disabled child over a period of several years. Sage’s busy but comfortable life was changed irrevocably when her daughter, Jayne, was involved in a horrific car accident. Prior to this, Jayne had been a psychology honours student who loved ‘rock, blues, playing the piano’ and was ‘a real nature buff’. Jayne survived her accident, but emerged with an acquired brain injury. 

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Bradley Manning is famous for being the US soldier who supplied WikiLeaks with its ‘choicest material’. In The Passion of Bradley Manning, Chase Madar argues that Manning is a national hero who has been wrongfully punished for his actions ...

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In Reluctant Rescuers, Tony Kevin addresses the rescue at sea of boat people who have entered Australian waters. He aims to provide a ‘fact-based analysis of a shadowy’ – and deeply controversial – ‘area of public policy’. Kevin begins by correcting the myth that ‘people smugglers’ are the ‘main culprits when people die at sea’ ...

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In Speaking Secrets, academic and journalist Sue Joseph looks at what happens when sex becomes ‘public property’, and interviews a range of Australians who have had often traumatic sex and sexuality-related experiences aired to a wide audience through the media. Some of her interviewees are well known, others are not. Several discuss their experience of sexual abuse, either as a victim or as the relative of a victim. There is an interview with David Cunningham, the Greens candidate who has argued that ‘disabled people need sex lives’. Cunningham (who has cerebral palsy) has stated that people with disabilities should have access to sex workers. There are interviews with the transgender lawyer Rachael Wallbank and the Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon, a Uniting Church minister who came out as a lesbian in 1997. In one amusing moment, McRae-McMahon finds herself discussing anal sex during her conversation with Joseph in a Sydney café.Speaking Secrets is situated in the field of literary journalism. Reading Joseph’s evocative prose, the reader almost feels as if he is eavesdropping on the interviews. Still, the author leaves much to the imagination (I will discuss one instance of this). There is not a cliché or a superfluous word in the book.

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Ghost Wife is a timely text, given the recent debates about same-sex marriage. Michelle Dicinoski writes about travelling to Canada in 2005 to marry her girlfriend, Heather.

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he Darkest Little Room, Patrick Holland’s latest novel, looks at sexual slavery and obsession in South-East Asia. The protagonist is Joseph, an Australian reporter travelling in Vietnam. Intent on finding a beautiful woman glimpsed briefly, he receives word that she may be working in a brothel known as ‘the darkest little room’. In pursuing this lead, Joseph meets and falls in love with a prostitute named Thuy. Attracted to her because she is ‘weak’ and ‘beautiful’, he wants to save her from her sordid way of life. Then Joseph starts purchasing heroin for Thuy. His morals are challenged and his life endangered.

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Midnight Empire, the second novel by Canberra author Andrew Croome, depicts political intrigue and acts of violence that play out against the backdrop of the so-called ‘war on terror’.

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In To the Highlands, the second instalment in a trilogy entitled ‘One Boy’s Journey to Man’, Jon Doust provides a gripping examination of racism and male sexuality in 1960s Australia.

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