Beauty, hospitality, generosity: refugee stories at the heart of Australian literature

Four writers whose revelations of the refugee experience encourage readers to broaden their understanding and their empathy.
refugee. Image is head and shoulders of man of Middle Eastern appearance with shoulder length dark hair and blue shirt against a black background. He is smiling slightly.

Stories of migration and courage occupy a special place in Australian letters, and four celebrated Australian writers bring their own perspectives to the forces that shape these stories. Arnold Zable, Alice Pung, Behrouz Boochani and André Dao each have urgent things to say about how the best Australian stories are stories of compassion.

Zable radiates vitality and, at a mature place in his career, has a lifetime of stories behind him. One of the most celebrated is Cafe Scheherazade (2001), which used fiction as a lens to tell the true story of a Melbourne café run by two Jewish refugees, who survived the Holocaust and created a place where postwar refugees and immigrants would gather to converse, exchange tales and feel at home.

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Vanessa Francesca is a writer who has worked in independent theatre. Her work has appeared in The Age, The Australian and Meanjin