The diverse literary talents of Western Sydney writers are showcased in Second City, a new collection of non-fiction essays published by the Sydney Review of Books. The collection takes resistance against conformity and uncritical consensus as one of its central themes and affirms that Western Sydney writing can be represented by no single form, opinion, style, poetics, or state of mind.
Contributors to Second City include Zohra Aly, Frances An, Rawah Arja, Luke Carman, Felicity Castagna, Eda Gunaydin, George Haddad, Raaza Jamshed, Yumna Kassab, May Ngo, Aleesha Paz, Sheila Ngoc Pham, Martyn Reyes and Amanda Tink.
Co-editor of the anthology, Catriona Menzies-Pike, said the publication reflects a maturation of the burgeoning Western Sydney literary scene.
“The vast and defining diversity of Western Sydney finds expression in this anthology, in essays by writers from different cultural backgrounds, certainly, but also in the form of the essay itself.
“The contributors to Second City draw their influences from around the world; the variety and sophistication of approaches to the essay in this anthology connects the literary communities of Western Sydney with global communities of practitioners,” she said.
Professor James Arvanitakis, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement and Advancement), noted the anthology’s importance for the region.
“The arts enables expression of identity, culture and community. Especially in Western Sydney this is a vital means of giving voice. This anthology not only celebrates local talent, but also gives voice to a flourishing community.
“The writers traverse and celebrate the rich culture of the region without the cliches or stereotypes but with depth and insight.”
From Aleesha Paz’s call to recognise the revolutionary act of public knitting, to Sheila Ngoc Pham on the importance of education in crossing social and ethnic boundaries, to May Ngo’s cosmopolitan take on the significance of the shopping mall, the collection offers complex and humane insights into the dynamic relationships between class, culture, family, and love.
Eda Gunaydin’s ‘Second City’, from which this collection takes its title, is both a political autobiography and an elegy for a Parramatta lost to gentrification and redevelopment.
Zohra Aly and Raaza Jamshed confront the prejudices which oppose Muslim identity in the suburbs, the one in the building of a mosque, the other in the naming of her child. Rawah Arja’s comic essay depicts the complexity of the Lebanese-Australian family, while Martyn Reyes combines the experience of a hike in the Dharawal National Park and an earlier trek in Bangkong Kahoy Valley in the Philippines.