VERB: Behrouz Boochani’s Book Club Reads

Today VERB Wellington hosted ‘Behrouz’s Book Club’, where a fascinating array of recommended books from authors and panelists Behrouz Boochani, Sasha Francis and Abdul Samad Haidari were discussed. The authors chose these works around the themes of reading adventurously, and the importance of a diverse field of voices.

We’ve compiled the discussed titles for your next library reading list, available in a range of eBook, eAudiobook and print formats! 

Behrouz Boochani’s Reads:

The yield / Winch, Tara June (Print copy)
Also available as eBook & eAudiobook
“After a decade in Europe August Gondiwindi returns to Australia for the funeral of her much-loved grandfather at Prosperous House, her only real home and also a place of great grief and devastation. The Yield carefully and delicately wrestles with questions of environmental degradation, pre-white contact agriculture, theft of language and culture, water, religion and consumption within the realm of a family mourning the death of a beloved man.” (Adapted from Catalogue).

Overdrive cover Then the Fish Swallowed Him, Amir Ahmadi Arian (eBook)

“Critically-acclaimed Iranian author Amir Ahmadi Arian makes his American debut with this powerful and harrowing psychological portrait of modern Iran. An unprecedented and urgent work of fiction that exposes the oppressive and corrosive power of the state to bend individual lives. Gripping, startling, and masterfully told, Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a haunting story of life under despotism.” (Adapted from Overdrive)

Still Alive : Notes from Australia’s Immigration Detention System / Ahmed, Safdar (Print copy)
“In early 2011, Safdar Ahmed visited Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for the first time. He brought pencils and sketchbooks into the centre and started drawing with the people detained there. Their stories are told in this book. Interweaving journalism, history and autobiography, Still Alive is an intensely personal indictment of Australia’s refugee detention policies and procedures.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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VERB Readers and Writers Festival, 2-6 Nov

The wonderful Verb Readers and Writers Festival is one of the highlights of the literary year, and this year’s incarnation  will very shortly be upon us! Verb Festival runs from 2-6 November this year — check out the programme at the link below:

Verb Readers and Writers Festival

This year’s festival is a rich and diverse celebration of the very best in Aotearoa New Zealand’s literature and beyond, and we thought we would take this opportunity to highlight just a few  of the upcoming events that that particularly excited us, so here goes!

First up on Friday 4 November, Verb have a  day of literary legends, including:

Jenny Pattrick, Coco Solid, Hinemoa Elder
Jenny Patrick, Coco Solid and Hinemoa Elder. Author Photo Credits: (C) Deanna Walker and Todd Karehana.

This is an unmissable chance to take a day out of the ordinary and explore in person the thoughts and ideas of some of Aotearoa’s greatest thinkers and imaginations.

Verb November 4 – Full details

Find out more about festival passes here.

On Saturday 5 November, there’s the opportunity to hear Gina Cole talk about ‘cartographies of the future’:

Gina Cole – Cartographies of the future

Na Viro is a fabulous new speculative fiction novel from Gina Cole and it is brilliant! It is her second novel and is strongly recommended for anyone interested in first nations writing, sci-fi, spec fic, and intergalactic travel! Catch her in action before she becomes a superstar.

On Sunday 6 November, our pick is Christine Leunens talking on ‘Fact and Fiction’:

Christine Leunenes – Fact and Fiction

We recently interviewed Christine Leunens about her 2022 novel In Amber’s Wake – find our interview below. Already optioned as a major Hollywood film, this new novel is a gripping tale set in 1980s Auckland.

Previously Christine wrote Caging Skies, which became Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. You can catch up with the author in person at this upcoming Verb event.

And of course, let’s not forget the two fabulous festivals within the festival (below) – just rock up and make a donation at the door for any of the events in these festivals within the festival:

We’ll see you there!

Books by Verb authors:

Catching the current / Pattrick, Jenny
“On the run from an unfortunate ‘indiscretion’, young Conrad Rasmussen finds refuge in the North Island of New Zealand under the employ of the famous (or notorious) Dane, Bishop Monrad. However Conrad – a talented and impetuous Faroeman, known in Jenny Pattrick’s Denniston novels as Con the Brake – finds he cannot escape his past. This is Conrad’s story, and that of the unusual woman Anahuia. It is a tale of new lands and old songs, of seafaring and war and the search for love. It is also the story of the Faroe Islands and of Denmark’s early connection with New Zealand.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook

Wawata – Moon Dreaming: Daily wisdom guided by Hina, the Maori moon / Elder, Hinemoa
“Dr Hinemoa Elder, author of Aroha, New Zealand’s top-selling non-fiction title of 2021, shows us how to reclaim intimacy with others, with ourselves, and with our planet using the energies of Hina, the Maori moon.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

All this by chance / O’Sullivan, Vincent
“Esther’s grandparents first meet at a church dance in London in 1947. Stephen, a shy young kiwi, has left to practise pharmacy on the other side of the world. Eva has grown up English, with no memory of the Jewish family who sent their little girl to safety. When the couple emigrate, the peace they seek in New Zealand cannot overcome the past they have left behind. Following the lives of Eva, her daughter Lisa and her granddaughter Esther.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

How to loiter in a turf war : a novel / Coco Solid
” From one of Aotearoa’s fiercest and most versatile artists comes a day in the life of three friends beefing with their own city. There is the gorgeous Q (Tongan, Fijian with a dash of Indian and Solomon ); Rosina (Hawaiian, Rarotongan, Samoan, Irish), then there’s Te Hoia (Maori and Filipino). A cranky political science student and our narrator, she identifies with the toffee waves being churned in the (constantly-broken) ice-cream machine. Together, they navigate the stuffy busses, streets and markets of Tamaki Makaurau at the height of summer. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

Gaylene’s Take : A Woman’s Life in New Zealand Film / Preston, Gaylene
“From one of our very best filmmakers comes a memoir of filmmaking in Aotearoa New Zealand.” ( Adapted from publishers )

Na Viro / Cole, Gina
“Appearing before the head of the Academy for fighting at her graduation ceremony, puffer ship navigator Tia Grom-Eddy must either join the crew of a spaceship on a deep space mission or complete a lengthy probationary period on Earth. Mortally afraid of travelling into deep space, Tia chooses probation. Estranged from her parents, Tia is bereft when her sister, Leilani, joins the crew of a puffer fish spaceship sent to investigate a whirlpool in deep space. And when the cosmic whirlpool sucks Leilani’s shuttle into its grip, Tia must overcome her fear of space travel and find a way to work with her mother, who is leading the rescue, or risk losing her sister forever.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

In Amber’s wake / Leunens, Christine
“Set in New Zealand during the fast-changing, tumultuous 1980s era of the anti-nuclear movement, Springbok rugby tour protests, and the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, this romantic drama is as unpredictable as it is powerful and heartfelt. Ethan Grieg, a film student, is in love with his close friend Amber Deering, an environmental activist, who lives at her family’s seemingly picture-perfect stud farm. Amber loves Ethan dearly, but not in the way that Ethan longs for. Instead, the man Amber chooses is widower Stuart Reeds, a charming, refined British investor almost two generations older than her. As a Korean war veteran, Stuart is mentally prepared for the long, subtle war that begins between his young rival and himself for Amber’s heart. When secrets become exposed and nothing is as it seems, each will be cornered into committing acts they could have never predicted. This powerful, gripping story leaves in its wake lingering themes on the complex nature of love, social fabric, international politics, and fundamental notions of right and wrong.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Upcoming Verb events: Sarah Winman and Mohamed Hassan

Our good friends the Verb festival have two fabulous events coming up. On the 15th of September  Sarah Winman will be talking about Still Life.  Still Life is one of the biggest selling novels of recent times, praised the world over for its joyous portrayal of love, art, adventure and family set in Tuscany, Florence, and London in the 1940s. It is  a one-night-only experience with Sarah Winman so why not delve into how she created such a breath-taking world.

And on the 29th of September Award-winning writer Mohamed Hassan maps the experience of being a Muslim in the twenty-first century in this stunning collection of essays, How To Be A Bad Muslim. Join Mohamed for this timely and important conversation about life, loss, Islamophobia, and hope.

“Mohamed Hassan takes the things we universally love – food, music, family, dreams of travel, a heart’s desire – and affirms their gorgeous ordinariness. Then he reveals how othering shatters what we share; how it splinters “us” to create confusion, ignorance, hurt and even hate. Sometimes his writing is gently observational, sometimes sad, sometimes justly angry, but always important, timely and true.”

Find full details of both events here.

How to be a bad Muslim : and other essays / Hassan, Mohamed
“This is the breakout non-fiction book from award-winning New Zealand writer Mohamed Hassan. From Cairo to Takapuna, Athens to Istanbul, How To Be A Bad Muslim maps the personal and public experience of being Muslim through essays on identity, Islamophobia, surveillance, migration and language. Traversing storytelling, memoir, journalism and humour, Hassan speaks authentically and piercingly on mental health, grief and loss, while weaving memories of an Egyptian immigrant fighting childhood bullies, listening to life-saving ’90s grunge and auditioning for vaguely-ethnic roles in a certain pirate movie franchise. At once funny and chilling, elegiac and eye-opening, this is a must-read book from a powerfully talented writer.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Still life / Winman, Sarah
“1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening. Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view. Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.” (Catalogue)