I first heard and saw Roanna Gonsalves guest speak at Senator Mehreen Faruqi’s International Women’s Day Breakfast. Roanna read a story from her award-winning book The Permanent Resident and shared her experiences as a woman of colour working and living in Australia.
Roanna was gracious enough to agree to speak with me for The Newcomer. Here’s what we talked about:
Q. How did you end up coming to Australia?
It was actually because of my auntie. In the eighties, she used to have a pen pal in Australia, they used to write to each other for many years and fell in love through their letters. My aunt got married and moved here. She used to send me letters and gifts when I was young, and Australia became a big part of my childhood.
During the late nineties, there was a huge push to recruit international students and many Australian colleges and universities were marketing themselves heavily in India. And that’s how I found out about this particular private college, through which I studied a film and television production course.
I’d already been working as a journalist and making corporate videos in India before migrating to Australia.
Q. What sparked the idea to write The Permanent Resident?
I’ve been writing now for over two decades and writing The Permanent Resident was like a culmination of 18 years of writing practice and observation. I felt that there were very few stories about contemporary Indians in Australia. We always write the stories that we wish we could read, and I hadn’t read too many stories about people like myself. So that’s why I felt drawn to writing those stories so I could chronicle what it’s like to be an outsider in Australia.
The Permanent Resident is a collection of short stories which are fiction. Some are inspired by what I read in the media and some include my personal observations. They reflect on themes like racism, marriage and other issues in relation to migrants.
It’s hard to choose my favourite story out of these, but different stories have struck a chord with different audiences. The short story form worked a lot better than the novel for the stories I was trying to tell because it enabled me to chronicle some experiences of being an outsider from different perspectives
Q. Who would you say is your favourite writer?
I have many favourite writers and it’s so hard to choose just one. However, one Australian writer I admire is Michelle de Kretser for the way she uses the English language, the freshness of her metaphors, and the cool social satire in her work.
Q. What would be your tips for other aspiring multicultural authors?
You have to read as much as you can and then you have to write as much as you can. It’s about reading and writing together. And, you have to keep going. I’ve been rejected many more times than I’ve been successful. It’s hard at first, but I’ve learned to not take it personally and to keep going.
It’s very hard to face rejection, but that is the nature of the game. You have to be prepared for the rejection, but don’t stop. If you love writing or creating things, just do it for the pleasure of it, practice regularly and keep reading because that’s what feeds your thinking.
Roanna Gonsalves is the author of The Permanent Resident (UWAP) published in India and South Asia as Sunita De Souza Goes To Sydney (Speaking Tiger). She was born and brought up in Mumbai, India. The Permanent Resident won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award Multicultural Prize 2018 and was longlisted for the Dobbie Literary Award 2018. Roanna works as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at NYU Sydney. She currently serves on the Board of Writing NSW. Follow Roanna on Twitter @roannagonsalves
Images supplied by www.roannagonsalves.com.au and Kathy Luu.