- THE DOROTHY HEWETT AWARD
The Abyssinian Contortionist: Hope, friendship and other circus acts
Sosina Wogayehu learnt to do flips and splits at the age of six, sitting on the floor of her parents’ lounge room in Addis Ababa, watching a German variety show on the only television channel in the land. She sold cigarettes on the streets at the age of eight, and played table soccer with her friends who made money from washing cars, barefoot in the dust. She dreamed of being a circus performer.
Twenty-five years later, Sosina has conjured herself a new life in a far-off country: Australia. She has rescued one brother and lost another. She has travelled the world as a professional contortionist. She can bounce-juggle eight balls on a block of marble.
Sosina is able to juggle worlds and stories, too, and by luck — which is something Sosina is not short of — she has a friend, David Carlin, who is a writer.
Following his acclaimed memoir Our Father Who Wasn’t There, David brings us his ‘not-me’ book, travelling to Addis Ababa where he discovers ways of living so different to his own and confronts his Western fantasies and fears. Through Sosina’s story he shows us that, with risk and enough momentum, life — whom we befriend, where we end up, how we come to see ourselves — is never predictable.
Praise for The Abyssinian Contortionist
Exactly the kind of creative non-fiction Australia needs: Carlin's sensitive, engaging and articulate portrait of the sassy somersaulting Sosina Wogayehu is a delicate cross-cultural balancing act which will surely be met with thunderous applause.MAXINE BENEBA CLARKE, AUTHOR OF FOREIGN SOIL AND THE HATE RACE
This meta, self-reflexive style of writing easily could have been a gimmick, and quickly tiresome, but from the outset it is clear Carlin is a master storyteller who is well-equipped for the challenge of capturing the life of a woman about whose culture, at the outset, he knows practically nothing. The subject of The Abyssinian Contortionist is clearly a remarkable person of unusual social mobility and ability, yet Carlin manages to navigate the high-wire act of astute observation without falling into hagiography.ANDREW MCMILLEN, THE AUSTRALIAN
Her friend David Carlin calls contortionist Sosina Wogayehu a 'can-do kind of woman', and reading his new biography on the former child asylum seeker and Circus Oz star, it's hard to argue.CAROLYN WEBB, THE AGE
A biography like no other, this is an unfalteringly clever work of creative non-fiction.MICHELLE MCLAREN, THE NEWTOWN REVIEW OF BOOKS