18 March 2015

An Open Letter to Melina Marchetta

Dear Melina,

You don't know me, but through your writing you have been a part of my life for around 20 years. Although you'll be at the Newcastle Writers' Festival this year, we'll probably never meet, as I won't be able to make it to your sessions. And it's the topic of the session you are running on Friday morning which has inspired me to write this.

"The Search for Identity".

Looking for Alibrandi was my "YES!" book.

Image source

Growing up in a country town with an Italian mother and Aussie father, identity was something I was constantly struggling with in my adolescent years. I didn't feel completely "Australian" because in the fairly mono-cultural community we were living in, I sometimes did and said things which were a little different. I didn't feel "Italian" because my close Italian relatives lived interstate and, while we were always on the phone (yes, Telecom did very well out of the Italians), we would only see them once or twice each year. I'm sure that if I'd grown up in Sydney or Melbourne, it wouldn't have been as much of an issue, because I would have been surrounded by others with similar backgrounds. But in my town, in my school, there were only a handful of us who had a parent or parents born outside Australia. I don't know how others saw me - I can't speak for them - but I know that to me "belonging" felt like an effort a lot of the time.

Like Josie, I felt like I didn't really belong anywhere.

When I read Looking for Alibrandi, my search for identity found something! It was the discovery of a "friend" in Josie. It was the validation in a book (a text we studied in English at school, no less) that some of the cultural and personal confusion I felt, was felt by others. It was overt acknowledgement by my peers that my background was just as normal as theirs. No longer was I feeling awkward talking about my relatives and that maybe I should call them by their English language equivalent names - now "nonna" was being bandied about in the classroom like any English word!

Melina, thank you for writing that book. Thank you for influencing me so positively at a time in my life when comfort with my identity and a sense of belonging was so important.

If you are planning on hanging around at the festival over the weekend, I am involved in a session on Saturday 21st March 1:30pm. If not, I hope our paths cross at some stage in the future.

Kindest and warmest regards,


  1. Mary O'Connor20/3/15 4:33 PM

    Perfectly written as always! I hope you two connect, I have heard Melina speak at conferences etc in the past & am always inspired by her! I believe you two would have a wonderful conversation!!!

    1. Thanks Mary. Unfortunately I didn't get to speak with her today, but there's always another year!

  2. I found your session at the Newcastle Writer's Festival very helpful and encouraging. Thanks for sharing so much practical information about your path to publication. I bought your book, along with a few others, today. From what you all said, I think it's about time to write on my blog more regularly, too.

    I have always enjoyed reading books by Melina Marchetta. Did you get to meet her (or anyone else you hoped to meet)?

    1. Hi Vanessa, thanks so much for coming and for your lovely comment. I'm glad you found the session useful. Unfortunately, I didn't get to speak with Melina, although I think I saw her in passing. I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Bob Brown, as I was next to him at the book signing table. What an amazing day!

  3. Oh my goodness, yes! I too studied this book in high school and it spoke directly to my heart (my heritage is Croatian/Serbian/English - totally bizarre combo!).

  4. I see you finally got to write your Alibrandi post! It's beautiful :)


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