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Open Right

Maria Tumarkin


Maria Tumarkin is a Melbourne-based writer and historian, and a 2013-2014 Sidney Myer Creative Fellow. She is the author of three critically acclaimed books of narrative non-fiction, which explore some of today’s most pressing issues – identity, immigration, family, moral courage and trauma.

Where were you born?

Born in the Russian-speaking Ukrainian Jewish family, I immigrated to Australia with my family at the age of fifteen. Less than two years later the Soviet Union ceased to exist (no causal relation). Meanwhile in Melbourne I bluffed my way into a Broadcast Journalism course. I was 17, could barely speak English and had not even finished Year 11.

What other jobs have you had?

I am a currently a freelance writer, teacher and consultant. In 2010 I was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University of Technology. Alongside with a host of academic jobs, I worked as a commercial producer for a regional TV station in Queensland, a Russian-English interpreter and translator for everyone from Melbourne International Film Festival to Australian Police, a tutor and a media officer. My flirtation with service industry (as a waitress, a falafel store attendant and a cleaner) was both disastrous and short-lived.

What themes are recurring in your work?

Identity, immigration, relationships between parents and children, memory, the importance of historical awareness, close bonds between people and places, justice, literature, Russia and Eastern Europe.

What have been the highlights of your career?

In 2006 my first book Traumascapes was shortlisted in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and two years later my second bookCourage was shortlisted for the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. More recently, Otherland was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, and The Age Book Of The Year.

Where have your works been published?

My essays and opinion pieces have been published in The AgeThe AustralianThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe MonthlyThe Griffith ReviewInside Story and many others. My radio documentaries have been broadcast on Radio National.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about developing historical consciousness in today’s adolescents because a deep and critical awareness of one’s history is a prerequisite for a vital civic society.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I am a mother of two kids: a teenager and a feral toddler, so, one could argue, have the worst of both of worlds.

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