Book Chats

A space for authors to unpack and explore their latest work.

In his book chat, John Safran discusses Philip Morris’ attempts to change reality to sell more ‘heat sticks’, explores his unique approach to storytelling, and provides a glimpse into where he might go next. A singular book chat, available until until 10/06/22.

Welcome to MJBW’s latest release of Book Chats. We were so enamoured with the selection of terrific Australian authors, including two debut writers, that we ended up with an extra chat. We know you won’t mind when you read what is in store. 

Join us for engrossing responses to the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and discussions on love and deception in closed communities, the intrigue involved in time travel, thrillers, pandemics, and the resilience of the human spirit.

In this book chat on Summertime, a work of non-fiction written in the shadow of the 2019/2020 bushfires, Professor Danielle Celermajer expands on the story of Jimmy the pig, urging us to expand our understanding of grief beyond the anthropocentric — and discusses how she uses the evocation of sense in her work to take the reader beyond abstract knowledge of the natural world. 
In her book chat, Anna Ciddor discusses The Boy Who Stepped Through Time, her time-slip adventure about a boy transported back 1700 years to Roman times. She explores the complexity — and tremendous fun! — of weaving plot, character development and historical fact into her work.
In her book chat, Lisa Emanuel discusses The Covered Wife, a fictional examination of the choice made by a young woman choosing to shift from secularism to living by the Torah — and a parallel exploration of why a group of believers might shift from openness to insularity.
In his book chat on Double Deal, John M. Green explains why constructing a good thriller is akin to building a rollercoaster — and explores why writing ‘on the cusp of the near future’ can often involve finding one’s far-fetched fictional plot points coming true.
In their book chat, Leah Kaminsky and Meg Keneally discuss what inspired them to undertake the creation of Animals Make Us Human, a book about the connections of humans with animals in the natural world — and the process of selecting and working with the incredible authors that contributed to the anthology.
In his book chat, Leon Piterman AM discusses Living in COVID Times, an exploration of Australia’s COVID-19 experience through a variety of lenses — from the political and economic components of the pandemic, to its effects on our shared social and religious practices — and explores what he considers might be involved in the final shift toward ‘Covid normal’.
In her book chat, Michelle Wright discusses Small Acts of Defiance, the story of a young woman who leaves Australia for France in 1940, immediately prior to the Occupation. Michelle explores why she was personally drawn to telling this story, and how themes of family and loyalty — on both a personal and larger level — formed the basis for the work.

 Melbourne Jewish Book Week would like to express its gratitude for the support of the following: 

Sandy and Phillip Benjamin

Joe and Rose Reich

 SEASON 5: August 2021

In this season of Book Chats, we have included a diverse range of writers, some of whom may be quite familiar to you — and for those who are not, we hope to tempt you to make their acquaintance. It is a sign of the times that two books were written during the covid lockdowns in Melbourne 2020. 

Join us, as we trace a family history back to western Ukraine, take a seat at an empty MCG, travel back in time to colonial Melbourne, celebrate what it means to grow older, learn about how two supportive siblings became billion dollar brothers — and revel in the possibilities and responsibilities of inhabiting the space between fact and fiction.

In his book chat, Ashley Browne discusses the AFL’s restricted 2020 pandemic season, the unique challenges faced by an author writing about recent events — and muses about the lasting legacy the events of 2020 may have on the future of Australian rules.
In her book chat, Joanne Fedler explores what motivates her to write about motherhood, and how one’s identity as a mother is challenged as children grow and no longer want or need to be ‘mothered’ — and explains why she celebrates mid-life and menopause as a freeing relief.
In his book chat, Rick Held explores the difficult decision to fictionalise his father’s extraordinary story, and takes us on a journey through the Romanian (now Ukranian) city of Czernowitz — his father’s hometown and the setting of Night Lessons in Little Jerusalem.
In his book chat, Gabby Leibovich discusses the importance of building a strong workplace culture, hiring ‘intrapreneurs’, and explores the role of trust in business and family life.
In his book chat, Joe Reich discusses the process of melding fact and fiction in creating the protagonist of his latest work, and how his career as an ophthalmologist led him to the story of Ernst Leitz II — creator of the Leica, and the “photography industry’s Schindler”.
In her book chat, Sue Silberberg explores the cultural diversity that made up colonial Melbourne. Sue gives a new slant to Melbourne’s development and connects Melbourne Jewry into wider historical themes and experiences such as space and place, urbanisation, imperial networks and diaspora.

 Melbourne Jewish Book Week would like to express its gratitude for the support of the following: 

Sandy and Phillip Benjamin

Joe and Rose Reich

 SEASON 4: June 2021

In this season of Book chats, we introduce some of the most influential writers in Israel who have made a name for themselves both nationally and internationally. The complexity of life in Israel is reflected in a diverse range of books that tackle history, identity in the broader context of Jewish literary culture and fictional dramas about everyday struggles.

In his book chat, Benjamin Balint discusses Kafka’s literary afterlife — in particular, how the author’s legacy has become inextricably bound in the stories Germany and Israel tell about themselves.

In this book chat, Nir Baram explores the unique power of adolescent friendship, and discusses how award-winning translator Jessica Cohen brought ‘the music of the Hebrew’ to the English-language versions of his novels.

In her book chat, Orly Castel-Bloom discusses the complexities of balancing fact and fiction, particularly when it comes to writing family stories, and the importance of capturing the stories of our loved ones before we forget.

In his book chat, Yaniv Iczkovits explores what he was able to achieve by setting a narrative in late 19th Century Russia, and discusses his interpretation of the concept of tikkun olam — ‘repairing the world’.

In her book chat, Ilana Kurshan discusses her experience of learning the Talmud — leading to the very different and new reading she presents in her work.

In her book chat, Ayelet discusses her journey of self-discovery as a Yemini Jewish woman and the conflict between longing for freedom and a sense of home.

 Melbourne Jewish Book Week would like to express its gratitude for the support of the following: 

Sandy and Phillip Benjamin

Joe and Rose Reich

 SEASON 3: April 2021

In this season of Book Chats, we explore how the past is personal — from historians who can’t help but find themselves a part of the history they’re writing about, to journalists motivated to save and share the extraordinary stories of those close to them. (Plus: we hear about why the Brussels sprout is perhaps the world’s most misunderstood vegetable.)

In her chat, Ramona Koval discusses her new book A letter to Layla, in which she travels the world in a quest to understand our deep past — and what may be our near future. In this chat, Ramona outlines her case for optimism for the future.

In his book chat, Daniel Lee shares the fascinating story of the piece of furniture that serves as the focal point of his latest book, The SS Officer’s Armchair — and explores the complexity of historians who find themselves inadvertently part of the stories they’re trying to tell.

Henry Lew’s book chat centres on his latest work, Patterson of Israel. In this chat, Henry shares the story of John Henry Patterson, the non-Jewish British army officer who led the ‘Jewish Legion’ during the First World War, and explores the underexplored interactions between the ANZACS and the Jewish troops at Gallipoli and Palestine.

In his book chat, David Slucki explores what brought him to write his memoirSing This at My Funeral: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons, and shares the history of the Bundists — a Jewish socialist movement, still active in Melbourne, centered on the concept of ‘Doikayt’ or ‘hereness’.

In her book chat, Sue Smethurst talks about her latest work, The Freedom Circus, the remarkable true story of her parents-in-law’s epic journey to Australia. Sue discusses the importance of recording family history, putting her journalistic skills to use on a highly personal project, and the final conversation she wishes she could have with Mindla, her extraordinary grandmother-in-law.

In her book chat, Alice Zaslavsky discusses what drew her to writing In Praise of Veg, which vegetables get the worst rap, and shares how her Georgian and Jewish heritage influences the way she cooks.

 Melbourne Jewish Book Week would like to express its gratitude for the support of the following: 


 SEASON 2: January 2021

MJBW has been thrilled with the response to Season One of Book Chats announced in December.  We are very excited to launch Season Two today, the second Tuesday of January 2021 which completes the set dedicated to authors who were set to be part of the cancelled MJBW 2020. 

In Dennis Altman’s book chat, the author discusses his memoir, Unrequited Love — exploring the American and Australian influences on his life and writing, and the cultural gap between generations in terms of gay social politics.
In Mark Dapin’s book chat, the author discusses his latest work, Australia’s Vietnam: Myth vs History. Was Vietnam a case of Australia fighting ‘other people’s wars’ — and how did the real experiences of veterans differ from our ‘official’ account of their treatment as returnees?

In her book chat, Anna Epstein explores her work of non-fiction — Melekh Ravitsh: The Eccentric Outback Quest of an Urbane Yiddish Poet from Poland. What was Melekh Ravitsh’s outback quest, and how much did the modernist art of Yosl Bergner, Ravitsh’s son, influence her decision to write the story?

In Andrea Goldsmith’s book chat, the author discusses her latest novel, Invented Lives, a story of identity and exile. How do we ‘invent’ our lives, and is it possible to be exiles within our native countries?

In her book chat, Andy Mia Kranz discusses the development of her unique visual style, and balancing tale, allegory and fable against the stark background of war and the Holocaust.

In Philip Salom’s book chat, the award-winning author discusses his 2019 novel, The Returns, a story about the eccentricities, failings and small triumphs that humans are capable of. The Returns has shortlisted for shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award and 2020 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award.

 Melbourne Jewish Book Week would like to express its gratitude for the support of the following: 

Dr Mark and Dr Alla Medownick


 SEASON 1: Dec 2020

MJBW is very excited to launch our first season of Book Chats, featuring six authors who were set to be part of MJBW 2020. In these edited chats, they talk about their latest work — some fiction, some non-fiction, but all exceptional works that we can highly recommend.

In Miriam’s book chat, the author discusses how the life of her grandmother inspired A Universe of Sufficient Size, and the process of setting a work between two very disparate locations and time periods: Budapest in the ’30s and Sydney in the early 2000s.

In Ginger’s book chat, the award-winning journalist discusses the spectre of online harassment. Gorman explores the concept of trolling, and highlights strategies to make technology companies accountable to the public good.

In Jeff’s book chat, the award-winning writer discusses the 2019 Christchurch massacre (the subject of his latest book, Fascists Among Us),  the urgent need to truly fight fascism, and the complexities of far-right responses to climate change.

In Suzanne’s book chat, the writer discusses the responsibilities an author has when writing a novel about the Holocaust — and whether it’s ever really possible for an author to leave one’s stories and characters behind.

In her book chat, Suzy discusses the decision to write about the lives of young women in Uganda, opting for fiction over biography, and writing to empower young women In Australia and Africa.

In Daniel’s book chat, the journalist discusses the gruelling stories of Australians dudded by trusted banks and financial institutions — and shares what surprised him most about the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

 Melbourne Jewish Book Week would like to express its gratitude for the support of the following: 

Dr Mark and Dr Alla Medownick