Australia Day is a collection of fourteen short stories by Australian author, Melanie Cheng. It won the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction.
In Australia Day, now-naturalised Australian, Stanley Chu spends Australia Day in the country property with the family of fellow med student, Jessica Cook, with whom he is hoping for more than friendship. Jessica’s family, though, is still enamoured with her ex, Eddie Mitchell: a good looking, white Anglo-Saxon who is universally loved.
In Big Problems, London-born Leila Ayers, on vacation from her Melbourne au-pair position, encounters a variety of attitudes to race and indigenous culture from different nationalities during her Red Centre bus tour, and chooses when to reveal her own Syrian heritage.
In Macca, GP Emily Garrett, against the advice of the practice’s senior partner, finds herself unable to maintain distance from an alcoholic patient.
In Clear Blue Seas, on her honeymoon in the Maldives with Raf, her now-rich, Iraqi-refugee husband, Kat is increasingly troubled by the yawning divide between the haves and the have-nots.
In Ticket Holder Number Five, motor registry counter worker Tania allows her usual impregnable façade to crack in the face of a tale of tragedy and heartache.
In Hotel Cambodia, NGO volunteer Melissa spends Sundays away from the pressures of third world nursing. She relaxes by the pool at Hotel Cambodia.
In Things That Grow, newly widowed Cora finds herself opting out of daily life until she suddenly discovers something to live for.
In Fracture, Tony’s dissatisfaction with his orthopaedic surgeon, an Indian, spurs his grandson, Luca into action.
In Toy Town, Maha and her daughter, Amani encounter Nicole and little Charlotte at the play centre. The mothers connect over the food they bring.
In Doughnuts, events in social worker Barry’s day send him to visit his father in his aged care facility.
In Allomother, her efforts for the weekly day out with the girl she carried for nine months far exceed those of the natural parents, but she gratefully accepts the crumbs of the girl’s company.
In White Sparrow, Bec raises her son Oliver alone. His port-wine birthmark was more than Tom could cope with.
In Muse, widower Evan has a prickly relationship with his daughter, Bea. Her partner, Edwina connects more easily, even encouraging him to return to his art.
In A Good and Pleasant Thing, old Mrs Chan acutely feels the difference between her Hong Kong life and living in Melbourne, and loneliness is only part of it.
Cheng’s stories are perceptive, insightful, sometimes disturbing, often heart-warming. She touches on a myriad of topics including attitudes to race, culture, patriotism, multiculturalism, grief, compassion overload, surrogacy and isolation. Of the fourteen, Allomother, White Sparrow, Muse, Macca, Things That Grow, Toy Town and Doughnuts are outstanding.