Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 22, 2021

Meet an Aussie Author: Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Here’s another author who’s taking up my offer to spruik the books of Australian authors whose MWF events were cancelled:

Photograph credit: Anna Kucera

Michael Mohammed Ahmad is the founding director of Sweatshop Literacy Movement and editor of After Australia (Affirm Press, 2020). His debut novel, The Tribe (Giramondo, 2014, see my review, won the 2015 Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelists of the Year Award. His second novel, The Lebs (Hachette, 2018, see Kim’s review at Reading Matters) received the 2019 NSW Premier’s Multicultural Literary Award and was shortlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Award. Mohammed received his Doctorate of Creative Arts from Western Sydney University in 2017. His latest novel is The Other Half of You (Hachette, 2021).

This is the blurb from the publisher’s website:

A novel as potent and powerful as the Miles Franklin shortlisted The Lebs, driven by a tender and defining love.

‘I only ever asked you for one thing,’ my father said, a quiver in his voice. ‘Just this one thing.’ It was as though I had smashed the Ten Commandments.
‘Oh father,’ I cried, grovelling at his ankles while my mother and siblings looked on. ‘The one thing you asked of me – is everything.’

Bani Adam has known all his life what was expected of him. To marry the right kind of girl. To make the House of Adam proud.

But Bani wanted more than this – he wanted to make his own choices. Being the first in his Australian Muslim family to go to university, he could see a different way.

Years later, Bani will write his story to his son, Kahlil. Telling him of the choices that were made on Bani’s behalf and those that he made for himself. Of the hurt he caused and the heartache he carries. Of the mistakes he made and the lessons he learned.

In this moving and timely novel, Michael Mohammed Ahmad balances the complexities of modern love with the demands of family, tradition and faith. The Other Half of You is the powerful, insightful and unforgettable new novel from the Miles Franklin shortlisted author of The Lebs.

For further background, see this article by Sarah Ayoub at The Guardian.

And here are Michael’s answers to my questions for Meet an Aussie Author.

  1. I was born…. in Australia. So why do people keep telling me I’m not Australian?
  2. When I was a child… I thought that ‘Melbourne’ was the English word for ‘Lebanon’. Whenever we visited my hundreds of cousins in Coburg, I was convinced we were in Beirut.
  3. The person who mentored me … was Professor Ivor Indyk. He showed me what Jews and Muslims can achieve when we work together.
  4. I write in … Western Sydney, before it was taken over by the police and the army.
  5. I write when …. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art.
  6. Research is…. a thousand and one nights.
  7. I keep my published works in … a box that says: ‘Festival Cancelled.’
  8. On the day my first book was published, I … also received my first negative review. It hurt.
  9. At the moment, I’m writing… complex sentences with my six-year-old son as part of his home-schooling: ‘Dad is a smelly fat bat.’
  10. When I’m stuck for an idea, I … spend time with my grandmother. She’s buried at Rookwood Cemetery.


  1. How wonderful! The Lebs was such a powerful and confronting novel, reminiscent of Christos Tsiolkas’ work. This one is on my wishlist. I saw him on The Drum recently and thought he spoke a lot of sense.


    • I think I might have seen a bit of that… The Drum is often a good lead-in to the news, but I too often forget to watch it.


      • It’s a bit dull and worthy but I much prefer it to The Project, which I cannot stand.


        • We used to catch about 10 minutes of that during the Masterchef season (I know, I know…) and were awestruck that this was the news that some people watch. To be fair, I have not seen a commercial station’s TV News since, oh I don’t know, since the days when there was Brian Naylor or that ponderous bloke on Channel 9, so I’ve got no idea what The Project compares with.


  2. Gosh, I teared up reading the blurb. The book might just mess me up!


    • Hi Karenlee, thanks for your comment…you’re right… as I know from my own experience, it can be hard for people to understand the difficulty of negotiating life with parents when they are stuck in the expectations of the old country which are just not compatible with the new country. The truth is that the young person is on the right track, you do have to adapt to the new country in various ways, not to be assimilated but to take advantage of the reasons why your parents migrated in the first place. What makes it harder is that the parents who are meant to be older and wiser and more experienced at de-escalating conflict, often don’t manage the conflict well, maybe because of fear of ‘losing their child or their authority’, and the young person often doesn’t have the skills to deal with it at all because of lack of experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So well-put Lisa. Not something I have experience with, except through a friend who had so much difficulty communicating properly with her Greek parents during her school years. Unfortunately, chasms can open up so easily and often do not close.


        • That is, unfortunately true…


  3. Another book straight onto my library list! Thank you again, Lisa.


    • Just think, Jennifer, how cheering your interest will be to Michael when he visits this page:)
      (Because we know that every reader who brags about enjoying a book, creates another reader of that book.)


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