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Open Right

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Author, Social Commentator

Randa practiced as a lawyer for ten years, is an award-winning author of 12 internationally published novels and regular op-ed contributor to print media. She has a PhD in sociology on the topic of Islamophobia in Australia. Her latest novel, When Michael Met Mina, won the Vic Premier’s Literary award for young Adults and the People’s Choice award. With funding from Screen Australia, Randa is also working on the film adaptation of her first novel, Does My Head Look Big in This? and is also working on the theatrical adaptation of her novel Where the Streets Had A Name with MonkeyBaa theatre company. She is a regular guest at writer’s festivals in Australia and around the world. Randa is keen to use her intervention into popular culture and academia to reshape dominant narratives around racism and multiculturalism.

Where were you born?

I was born in Sydney but moved to Melbourne when I was three. I attended a Catholic primary school and an Islamic secondary college.

What other jobs have you had?

In my first year at university I worked at a fast food shop. I then obtained the position of Media Liaison Officer at the Islamic Council of Victoria, a role which afforded me the opportunity to write for newspapers and engage with media institutions. In my last years at university I worked as a paralegal at a law firm specialising in employment law. I now practise as a lawyer and juggle this with my writing and speaking engagements at schools, universities and writer’s festivals.

What are you passionate about?

Building a sense of Australian identity that is inclusive and based on civic values, not cultural or ethnic definitions which necessarily exclude in our pluralistic and multicultural society. I’m passionate about human rights and women’s empowerment. I’m passionate about addressing social injustice, corruption and discrimination. I’m passionate about inspiring my readers, whether old or young, to challenge their value judgments and assumptions and think beyond stereotypes.

What have been the highlights of your career?

Winning the Australian Book Industry Award Book of the Year for Older Children in 2006 for my first novel, Does My Head Look Big in This?, followed by it being longlisted for the UK Galaxy Book Awards 2006 and shortlisted for the Grampian Children’s Book Awards UK 2006. It was also a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age and one of the USA’s Kirkus’s Best Books for Young Adults.

Winning the Kathleen Mitchell Award for Ten Things I Hate About Me was also a highlight! Knowing that it has done well in the USA, where it was selected, by a joint committee of America’s Children’s Book Council and the National Council for the Social Studies, as a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People 2010, has been a real thrill as well.

As for Where the Streets Had A Name, there can be no greater thrill than winning the 2009 Golden Inky, Australia’s only teen choice book awards. There is no better validation of one’s writing than knowing that the people you write for are commending your efforts. So this is the most treasured prize for me of all.

Last but not least in September 2010 I was invited by the US State Department as the only Australian representative in a delegation of fourteen international guests to participate in a multi-regional international visitor’s leadership program looking at changing demographics, multiculturalism and immigration in the USA. It was a wonderful opportunity and I feel very honoured to have been invited.

Testimonials

I’d love to recommend Randa. Randa worked with a small group of creative writers in Year 11, running a workshop on the process of writing a novel, and then addressed the entire Year 10 cohort about her experiences growing up as a Muslim-Australian and her writing. The Year 11s were so thrilled and inspired to write, even though they were very busy with their VCE studies, and the Year 10s were genuinely engaged.

I would highly recommend Randa to any school looking to further their students’ awareness of multiculturalism in the community and to give the students a true writing experience.

—L. Wilcox, Marymede Catholic College, February 2013

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