WSUP’s Book Picks 

Team WSUP's Book Picks from Sydney Writer's Festival ...

Tash – The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon 

This fictional story is the fourth in the Bone season which is a dystopian and paranormal thriller. Being in the centre of a planned seven book series means that this is the integral part of the storyline. Compelling, driven, and full of suspense.  

“It is a beautiful mask, but all masks fall. In the end.” – The Mask Falling 

Anya – Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes 

A fictional story using the ancient Greek Pantheon and Medusa, who experiences mortality unlike her sisters. This modern retelling of the ancient myth is proclaimed as witty and passionate as it explores the concepts of beauty and persecution through Medusa’s story.  

Julia – Reclaim by Dr Ahona Guha 

Dr Ahona Guha is an Australian psychologist with a doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology from Swinburne University. She has also written the book “Life Skills for a Broken World” and works to break down the stigma between mental health and mental illness. Reclaim is about the tools needed to survive complex trauma and abuse, as well as the aftermath of this suffering. Whilst this might be useful for people struggling with their mental health and building relationships, it is also a fascinating read for anyone who wants to learn more about human behaviour and support the people who may be around them. 

To see WSUP’s complete book list from Sydney Writer’s Festival check out our bookshelf on Goodreads now.

W’SUP news would like to thank the Sydney Writer’s Festival team for providing the opportunity to attend events media personnel and for hosting such incredible sessions. We hope to continue collaborating in the future and bring these important conversations to Western Sydney University. 


Fantasy Book Recommendation Corner 

Read the latest novel recommendations from Symphony Chakma, a book lover and member of the WSU Book Club! Find out why these stories mean so much…...

For as long as I can remember since childhood, I’ve been what you may call an avid reader: I’ve always loved to read and would voraciously read any book I could get my hands on, willing to open new portals to worlds beyond the fabric of reality through fiction and empower myself with knowledge in nonfiction.  

But, somewhere in my transition from my late teens to my early twenties, combined with moving to a new country, I’ve unfortunately lost my joy and love for reading.   

Last year, however, I once again fell in love with reading and finally achieved my Goodreads goal of successfully reading up to thirty books, surpassing it even with an extra five!  

And from it, alongside my reignited spark for reading, it’s my pleasure to present to you, dear reader, some book recommendations I’m sure you’ll love! (Especially if you feel like exploring many illustriously beautiful worlds of fantasy to immerse yourself within, these are surely the books for you!) 

1. First up, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:

The novel, Six of Crows, is the first book of a duology series written by author Leigh Bardugo.  

It’s part of an overarching universe dubbed the Grishaverse, that was kickstarted by Bardugo’s creation of the Shadow and Bone trilogy.  

In Six of Crows, Bardugo has done an excellent job at portraying disability and queer representation in the story, that I think would be greatly appreciated by many. Additionally, the twists and turns will have you hooked, and you indubitably will fall in love with the characters within.  

Shadow and Bone was adapted into a Netflix TV series, but – with Netflix being Netflix – the series was unfortunately cancelled after 2 seasons. Also, to keep in mind, you may be familiar with some of the characters in this book if you have watched the show prior.  

Regardless of whether you have watched the show or not, I highly recommend reading this absolute wonder of a book and hope you have as much of a joy reading it as I have.  

2. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon:

This is a standalone fantasy book I highly recommend! It has everything – dragons, women in power, and forbidden love.  

Samantha Shannon managed to effectively weave a beautiful story for the readers’ pleasure.  

However, a warning to first-time readers of fantasy: the book is quite lengthy. If you aren’t used to reading 800+ pages, you might have to take your time reading this book.  

Personally, it took quite a while to finish as well, as I was reading it in between my commute time from placement and home (fun fact and pro-tip for you, dear reader: as a social work student, self-care is always emphasized during student placements, and reading was mine).

3. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo!  

Another Leigh Bardugo mention! This book was Bardugo’s first foray into writing adult novels.  

Ninth House follows the story of Alex Stern, who attends Yale, and alongside Alex, we discover Yale’s secret societies, ones that have access to the occult, that regular humans don’t have.  

This book deals with heavy topics such as drug addiction, power, and corruption. Within the urban fantasy setting, the story is woven into a complex tapestry. It makes you question the idea of privilege itself.  

Additionally, if you’re a big fan of classics, you might spot some nods to the Divine Comedy within the pages of his book.  

That is all for my fantasy book recommendations. I hope you all find some new favourites! Happy reading!  

Author: Symphony Chakma (Edited by Luci Kugathsan)


A true telling of Australia’s immigration detentions

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be in one of Australia’s immigration detention centres? ...

Safder Ahmed holding his book, ‘Still Alive.’ Credit: Safdar Ahmed

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be in one of Australia’s immigration detention centres? The recently published graphic novel ’Still Alive’ is the first of its kind to offer a glimpse into the daily experiences of refugees in detention centres.

Graphic journalism can be powerful in raising awareness of social and political issues as they are easy to consume yet often have a strong impact on its audience. The Walkley Awards winning artist and author of the graphic novel, Safdar Ahmed, explains that comics are a very subtle and sophisticated way of communicating, however they remain to be one of the most effective tools for activism. “Art can provide a context for understanding our place in the world, and using art to challenge power, to open our minds and to not just accept the way things are when they’re wrong and unjust,” said Mr Ahmed. 

‘Still Alive’ is the culmination of almost a decade of visiting the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and witnessing the lives of detained refugees and asylum seekers. Mr Ahmed has been visiting the centre since 2011, where he volunteered to run art workshops for people in detention, alongside other local artists. The workshops sparked the idea of facilitating a space for refugee artists, prompting the establishment of ‘The Refugee Arts Project’ that runs workshops, community dinners, and exhibitions for emerging artists.

The not-for-profit community arts organisation has successfully created a community of local and refugee artists who produced various forms of art from coffee painting, realistic drawings, resin artwork, music, poetry to zines. “The book is a natural outgrowth of community work with the Refugee Arts Project,” said Mr Ahmed.

The book illustrates various aspects of a refugee’s life in detention, including the struggle with food, sleep, relationships, education, spirituality and the lingering trauma from their survival journeys. “I wanted to put a spotlight on the way people resist detention and to show their agency, and I think resistance isn’t just about when people protest or when people riot or when people speak to the media. Resistance can occur every day in many other small ways,” notes Mr Ahmed.

Credit: Safder Ahmed

The author notes that most Australians are unaware of human rights violations that occur in immigration detentions. He adds that politicians have misled the public regarding the reality of the detention system for the past 30 years, and have succeeded in dehumanising and criminalising refugees who are often labelled as ‘que jumpers’, ‘illegal arrivals’ and ‘foreigners who will steal Australian jobs’. “The whole policy of mandatory detention is also an outgrowth and a continuation of Australia as a colonial project,” he said.

Despite efforts to raise awareness, the heart-breaking reality lingers that thousands of refugees continue to suffer from Australia’s immigration policies. Only one refugee mentioned in the book received an Australian citizenship, while the rest are left in limbo. “They don’t have family reunion, they’re still alone, they’re still in a very difficult legal situation which is isolating and punishing,” he notes.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, around 1,484 people are locked up in detention centres, and more than 500 reside in the community with no visa and minimal rights. This is in addition to 30,000 asylum seekers and refugees whose claims have not been finalised as mentioned in the 2019 Australian Human Rights report.

Mr Ahmed encourages his readers to hear directly from refugees who shared their stories like Behrouz Boochani. He adds that being more active in the politics of this nation is equally important. “People can protest, people can write letters to their local politicians, people can join associations that support refugees and asylum seekers directly… send a clear message that Australia’s position is unacceptable and immoral,” he said.

Credit: Shayma Abdellatif

You can purchase ‘Still Alive’ from the Twelve Panels Press website.