5 books by queer Westies to add to your to-read list

Looking for your next train-to-the-city read? While this list is prompt, it packs a mighty punch. So many incredible LGBTQIA+ stories exist out in Western Sydney, and these books intimately capture the shared turmoil, laughter, smiles and sadness we experience as queers from The Area. There is also something so comforting about holding a book with suburbs and places you can recognise and imagine, and while we can momentarily share these authors’ heartbreak, we can bask in their joy too.

From an anthological collection of short queer stories to a young bisexual Tongan-Australian’s cramped upbringing in Mt Druitt, here are five books you won’t be able to put down.

1. Stories Out West (various authors, ACON)

Stories Out West Book Cover

This book bursts with an array of stories – 17 to be exact – each written by a queer person from Western Sydney. Cabramatta’s Jenny Nguyen recounts meeting their partner’s Mum for the first time in a vivid love letter. St Mary’s Sarah Carroll flicks through Total Girl, itching for a glance at her one true love: Katy Perry. A shameless self plug – Doonside’s Mark Mariano gleeks over his high school crush, who also happens to be his best friend’s boyfriend.

Released during WorldPride 2023, Stories Out West is an exciting anthology, edited by Adrian Mouhajer and Winnie Dunn. This anthology was an initiative of ACON, in collaboration with Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement led by ACON’s Loc Nguyen and Adrian Mouhajer as part of ACON’s commitment to achieving greater health equity for LGBTQ+ people from First Nations and CALD, as well as migrant and refugee backgrounds, in Greater Western Sydney.  With 17 short tales to devour, there’s something for everyone.

Stories Out West is available as a PDF. for free here.

2. Dirt Poor Islanders by Winnie Dunn

Dirt Poor Islanders by Winnie Dunn Book Cover

Winnie Dunn is the General Manager of Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy movement – a collective dedicated to fostering diverse stories within The Area. Released in April 2024, Dunn’s debut novel follows Meadow Reed, a young half-Tongan half-Australian tween from Mt. Druitt. The pre-pubescent protagonist uses the comfort of books like Alice in Wonderland to escape from her cluttered and cramped home. Dunn perfectly captures that pivotal moment in your life, when unfamiliar feelings of desire spawn and change as your body does.

Dirt Poor Islanders is (to knowledge) the first autobiographical fiction novel written from a Tongan-Australian perspective. Steeped in Tongan folklore, readers both laugh and learn as they watch Meadow stumble to her true self.

Dirt Poor Islanders is available for purchase online and at your preferred book store.

3. Down the Hume by Peter Polites

Down the River by Peter Polites Book Cover

Down The Hume follows Bucky – a queer, low-SES Greek guy from Western Sydney with a habit for painkillers. His life is inundated with calls from his malaise mother and sporadic drop-ins from his criminal lover ‘Nice Arms Pete’. Will Bucky ever have a ‘normal’ life? Or is chaos the norm for this wayward wog boy from The Area?

Polites is Greek and based in Western Sydney. He also authored The Pillars (2019), and God Forgets About The Poor (2023), with all his books receiving critical acclaim and various nominations for literary prizes. Reviews lovingly liken Down the Hume to LOADED by Christos Tsiolkas.

Down the Hume is available for purchase online and at your preferred book store.

4. Son of Sin by Omar Sakr

Son of Sin by Omar Sakr Book Cover

Son of Sin follows Jamal, a young queer Arab man housed and raised by various Lebanese relatives in Western Sydney. Disconnected from both his parents and their cultural melting pot, Jamal is forced to make his own way to himself. After a blurry sexual encounter on an otherwise holy day, Jamal’s shame is pulled in various directions. His only solace? Destiny’s Child.

Son of Sin is Omar Sakr’s debut novel. He has also authored various poetry collections; The Lost Arabs (2019), These Wild Houses (2017) and Non-Essential Work (2023). The latter was shortlisted in two 2024 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards categories.

Son of Sin is available for purchase online and at your preferred book store.

5. Losing Face by George Haddad

Losing Face by George Haddad Book Cover

Haddad’s second novel, Losing Face, follows Joey, a young Leb unaware of his place in Western Sydney’s underbelly. He soon finds himself at the centre of a violent sexual crime, and his grandmother, Elaine, steps in to save face. When Joey is arrested, old family skeletons soon come out of the closet. Can his passive obliviousness save him this time around? Set across Greenacre, Bankstown and Canley Vale, Losing Face will have yours dumbfounded.

George Haddad also authored Populate and Perish, which won the 2016 Seizure Viva La Novella Prize.

Losing Face is available for purchase online and at your preferred book store.

Mark Mariano (he/him) is a Filipino writer, model and podcast producer from Doonside in Western Sydney on Dharug land. Proudly queer, his work has been featured on Buzzfeed, SBS, ABC, and Queerstories. In 2023, he contributed to ACON’s editorial anthology ‘Stories Out West’, and starred in their ‘With Love’ campaign for Sydney WorldPride as ‘sexy sickly bear’. Mark loves thrifting and crying on public transport in hopes of getting scouted for a Netflix series.