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Born Sticky Beak: Helen Garner

December 29, 2017

Helen GarnerBorn: 7 November, 1942 (age 75)

Childhood: The eldest of six children, Garner grew up in Geelong, Victoria, where she attended high school.

Best known for: Perhaps Garner’s most notorious and controversial book is The First Stone: some questions of sex and power, which is an account of a 1982 sexual harassment scandal at Ormond College, one of the residential colleges of the University of Melbourne. It was criticised because the two students who made the sexual harassment allegations refused to meet with Garner, and many parts of the story had been fictionalised. She was also condemned by many Australian feminists for claiming the appropriate response to being groped is ‘a slap in the face,’ not a police complaint.

How many books published: She has written more than fifteen books, including short story collections, fiction, and non-fiction.

Most recent book: True Stories and Stories.

How Helen Garner became a writer: Although Garner wrote smaller pieces earlier in her life, it was her first novel Monkey Grip (1977) that announced her as one of Australia’s most contemporary and thoughtful writers at the time. Monkey Grip tells the story of a single-mother Nora, who falls in love with a heroin addict while trying to raise her daughter in a share house in Melbourne during the late 1970s. In an interview after the book’s publication, she admitted that the majority of her book had been adapted directly from her personal diary.

Star Sign: Pisces

Quotable quotes: ‘I like poking my nose into other people’s lives.’ 

Interests: Reading, of course. Garner also lives next door to her grandchildren and loves having them float in and out of her house.

Did you know? In 1972, Garner was fired from her teaching position because she delivered an unscheduled, frank sex education lesson to her 13-year-old students at Fitzroy High School. She documents the experience in her short non-fiction story The Schoolteacher, which is published in her most recent collection True Stories.


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