Rich study and life experiences have equipped a diverse array of Flinders University graduates to have their compelling stories published across a range of literary genres.
Published works include Dr Ben Chandler’s fantasy novels, Hannah Kent’s best-selling historical fiction, Lucy Trethewey’s educative children’s story, and medical graduate Dr Sarah Brooker’s fascinating biography exploring her incredible medical condition and recovery.
My Lucky Stroke
In 2002 when she was just 20 years old, Dr Sarah Brooker (PhD(Med) ’14) had a stroke while at the wheel of her car. She survived the horrific crash, but extensive brain injuries left her with no memory of her life before the accident.
Incredibly, Sarah says she’s a better person having come through the ordeal. She shares the remarkable story of rebuilding her identity in the biography My Lucky Stroke (2020).
‘My family hadn’t realised how much I’d changed as a person after the accident and brain injury,’ says Sarah. ‘That girl they once knew doesn’t exist anymore, and I don’t believe my brain will ever allow those memories to come back again.
‘My body needed the energy to do other, more vital things – like survive and heal.’
An extraordinary twist in Sarah’s tale is that she retained her knowledge of neuroscience from her undergraduate degree in Behavioural Neuroscience, and went on to complete her Honours and later a medical PhD at Flinders University.
‘The struggle through recovery after stroke is always discussed as though it’s a bad thing, but I’ve experienced positives. Everything I’ve done since – learning to talk, walk, sit upright, in fact every memory I have – is an achievement.’
Sarah is now teaching maths and science in high schools, as well as drawing on her post-stroke experiences to teach high-needs students who are non-verbal, have learning disorders or autism. Following the success of My Lucky Stroke, she plans to continue writing.
The Good People
Hannah Kent (BCreatArts(Hons) ’09) has enjoyed great success with her second novel The Good People (2016), following the international best-seller status of her 2013 debut Burial Rites.
The Good People is a historical fiction set in 1820s rural Ireland, exploring how folkloric beliefs and fairy superstitions take hold of a community fretting to explain a series of sudden deaths.
Desperate for answers, they point to a sickly boy as the reason for their ill fortune, believing he is in the thrall of wicked fairies. The boy’s mother, Nóra Leahy, is left to battle with a rising hysteria of religious, medical, folkloric and, ultimately, legal foes.
Dr Ben Chandler (BA(Hons) ’05, PhD(EHLT) ’09) is a busy fantasy writer who has issued Beast Child (2011), the second book in a continuing series of The Voyages of the Flying Dragon. It follows teenage twins leading a renegade airship crew through edgy adventures.
‘I firstly create characters that I find interesting and then build a fantasy world around them,’ says Ben who believes you can learn more from watching cartoons than you can from the news.
‘There is a lot of cultural encoding in children’s animation that is fascinating.
‘Cartoons provided me with a window into Japanese mythology and culture that eventually steered my academic studies. Fantasy is the progression of how we tell the heroic myths and legends that have been told for millennia.’
Lucy Trethewey (BA ’98) used her sociology studies to inform an educative children’s book she wrote under the pen name of Ava Keyes. Scapegoat (2018) is the story of a child bullied, blamed and belittled at home, told through the tale of cartoon goats illustrated by Aleksandra Szmidt.
Lucy felt compelled to write Scapegoat after finding nothing else published for young children about this subject.
‘We don’t have enough understanding of how families function under their own roof,’ says Lucy. ‘We need to push awareness and advocate for that child who is bullied.
‘I’m keen to tell stories that explain why people become who they are.’