Portable Curiosities

A first-generation Asian-Australian with a background in corporate law, Koh didn’t start out writing satire, but as she developed her distinctive magical-realist style her stories became increasingly political – and personal.  ‘It’s often said that a writer’s first book is autobiographical," she says. "Mine is no exception, although I didn’t initially set out to write about my identity. As a teenager, I wrote white, middle-class 'kitchen sink' fiction. In time, however, I began to write stories that examined what amused and angered me. Satire became a perfect avenue to channel my bemusement and rage about the superficiality and absurdity of modern society.’

Taking aim at misogyny, race relations, corporate greed, consumerism and the great Australian dream of conforming to the mainstream, Koh doesn’t shy from the confronting. At the same time, her alternate Australia is distinctly playful, her scenarios startlingly inventive, and her writing imbued with a deep compassion.
From killer ice-cream trucks to separatist cat cafés, Portable Curiosities mines the underbelly of contemporary culture and turns Australian society – and Australian short fiction – on its head.

I saw this Instagram post, right? And this girl wrote that she would, and I quote, kill for one of my ice-creams and I thought, as I slid down the left slippery slide, I wonder if she would literally die for one. That’s a gap in the market if I ever spied one. What if I decided to take ice-cream out of the ice-cream business and turn it into an extreme sport? What if an ice-cream existed that said to foodies everywhere: ‘How serious are you about food?’ An ice-cream that sorts the professionals from the amateurs, the men from the boys. So I thought I’d put the word out. Call in the media. We’re going to try it out today.

– from Cream Reaper

Julie Koh was born in Sydney to Chinese–Malaysian parents. After quitting a career in corporate law to pursue writing, she has  published short stories in a range of outlets, including The Best Australian Stories 2014 and 2015, The Sleepers Almanac and The Lifted Brow. In 2013 she was a Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards (Written Word category) finalist.

Her website is thefictionaljuliekoh.com.

Contact: Rachel Crawford, UQP Marketing and Publicity, rachelc@uqp.uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 7932.

Last updated:
30 May 2016