Book Chats

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

 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