MICHELLE Aung Thin recalls a stranger on a St Kilda Rd tram, a couple of weeks after she arrived from Canada, giving her an impromptu guided tour.
In the anthology Joyful Strains she writes: ‘‘ Flinders St Station,’’ he said, with triumph in his voice. ‘‘ She isn’t meant to be there, you know. She was meant for Bombay. Someone in an office got the plans mixed up. She is in the wrong place.’’
‘‘ I know exactly how that station feels,’’ Aung Thin replied.
The idea of being lost in transit sticks in her mind and she doesn’t care if the man’s story is unlikely to be true. Born in Burma but raised in Canada, she has learnt the trick of inhabiting places, particularly Rangoon, through her family’s stories and memories rather than physical presence.
Adib Khan came to Melbourne from Bangladesh in 1973 to study at Monash University and was indoctrinated by a friend on how to be a Hawthorn supporter. ‘‘ I had to be firmly biased towards the players and the club. All umpiring decisions against Hawthorn were wrong, our players never fouled and when we lost, an international conspiracy had prevailed,’’ he writes.
Chris Flynn saw Australia as a place to reinvent himself, to cast off the shadow of Northern Ireland and the stereotype of being Irish.
‘‘ I do not drink Guinness. I hate it. It tastes like blood. I do not like Riverdance. Michael Flatley is creepy, and all those beatific dancers clad in green Lycra, clopping around a stage like extras in a bad Monty Python sketch make me cringe with embarrassment,’’ he writes.
The three authors are among 27 who have contributed to Joyful Strains – published to coincide with Australia Day.
The anthology’s editors, Kent MacCarter and Ali Lemer, say the writers explore what it’s like to start over in a new country and ‘‘ how their native cultures add to and contrast against the dynamics of Australian life’’. The name of the book, Joyful Strains, reflect the joys and strains the 27 authors have felt settling here. Racism, cultural conflict, concern about the treatment of indigenous people and the fatigue that comes from the ‘‘ political correctness that can characterise the immigrant story’’ are also part of many stories.
CULTURAL CONTRAST: Michelle Aung Thin, Chris Flynn and Adib Khan are among 27 authors who tell their tales of settling in Australia in .