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The allure of rebellion

Writer and editor of Rebellious Daughters, Maria Katsonis led an insightful panel discussion at Melbourne Writer's Festival

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(L-R) Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman. Photo: Twitter

12 September 2016

Since its release last month, Rebellious Daughters has been praised for representing a missing voice of our times; that of women in their quest to develop their own identity.

In a bid to further explore this theme, editors of the anthology, Maria Katsonis and Lee Kofman took to the stage at ACMI last week as part of the Melbourne Writer's Festival in a panel discussion on the notion of rebellion, and its allure.

Led by Katsonis, joining Kofman in the hot seat were fellow writers and contributors Jo Case and Jamila Rizvi.

The free event proved to be extremely popular, with the line of hopeful attendees extending and weaving around corners upon arrival.

The packed-out Cube venue space was filled with mostly women – as one would expect – of all ages, and notably mothers, who, it would seem, not only wanted to explore rebellion with regards to themselves, but to better understand the lives led by their own daughters.

Each of the writers read extracts from their own short memoirs, all of which attracted nods of recognition and laughter, notably for Kofman's 'Me, My Mother and Sexpo' in which she attempts to gain revenge on her pious Russian Jewish mother by taking her along to the provocative exposition.

Discussion continued around the meaning and purpose of rebellion, with reasons ranging from the need to conform and fit in with friends in Case's experience, to the other end of the spectrum where Rizvi, while not conventionally rebellious, struggled to suppress her feelings of jealousy towards her rebellious younger sister for all the attention she received.

As confronting as the genre of memoir can be to write in itself, Katsonis further encouraged the writers to take the experience one step further by asking them what they thought the reader would make of each of them through their stories.

The panel also tackled the ways in which they approached the ethical aspects of writing about others in the process of telling their own story.
Recognising that everyone's version of the facts can differ, Kofman's rule of thumb was a good one to remember, not only for memoirists, but as an approach to everyday life.

"The way I get around it is by keeping two ground rules: I'm always hardest on myself, which I feel gives me some moral right to talk about people - not in a nasty way, but in an objective way … And my second big rule is to tell my stories, but not their secrets … because I do feel that even if I offend other people I do have the right to tell my story," Kofman explained.

While for some, rebellion is something that ends as adulthood commences, this is not the case in all stories featured in Rebellious Daughters. Katsonis addressed this by turning the focus to the passage of time, and what it had meant for Kofman, Case and Rizvi. While Kofman admitted to the continuation of her rebellious nature, particularly magnified when her parents come to town to visit from New York each year, in Case and Rizvi's case, motherhood and the power of hindsight had seen them empathise with the position of their parents.

Nearing the end of the insightful 60-minute discussion, the attention turned to the audience, with members encouraged to pitch their own questions for the panel.

The event drew to a close with a well-deserved round of applause, each of us leaving a more enlightened rebellious daughter.

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