When asked how queerness has informed his storytelling and shaped his identity, George Haddad responds deftly, “Queerness has absolutely changed my perspective on the way I think about relationships, my place within society and culture so I can’t help but write to that.”
Trigger Warning: This story discusses sexual assault and rape culture, which might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.
Haddad is an Australian writer practicing on Gadigal land whose work explores the limitations of language and masculinity. His latest novel, “Losing Face”, is riddled with intergenerational tensions centered around a Lebanese-Australian family living in Western Sydney.
The novel came about from his doctoral studies at Western Sydney University where he was researching the representation of masculinity in contemporary Australian literature, looking to authors like Christos Tsiolkas and Peter Polites for inspiration.
Novel Comes To Grips With Rape Culture
‘Losing Face’ was a project 3.5 years in the making and follows his desire to write about diverse backgrounds, migrant culture and sexuality. The narration of the story follows a perpetrator of sexual assault where the authorial choice came from a want to shed light on those who perpetuate violent atrocities as a means of trying to understand them. He also adds he was not in the position of writing from the victim’s perspective as it was not something he had experienced as a cis-male.
The novel comes to grips with rape culture and the moral ambiguity regarding consent that can arise in instances where not saying ‘no’ doesn’t explicitly mean ‘yes’.
He suggests that navigating conversations about sex and consent is vital in ensuring there are safe spaces, stating that “there should be an enthusiastic commitment by both people, or however many people involved” while engaging in sexual acts.
At The Sydney Writers Festival
When writing his main character, Joey, Haddad affirms that he didn’t want to fall into the stereotypical trauma porn pathway when it came to the protagonist’s coming out experience. ‘Losing Face’ is a novel written “to hope”, with Haddad urging the reader to feel that there is a “way out for these characters”.
The complexities around masculinity interwoven with his Arab-Australian experience involve a ‘binarised’ identity of gender. “You’re a man or you’re a woman, and you have to stick to these gender roles. It’s not enough to prescribe to these roles, you actually have to show that you are a man”, he states.
Haddad speaks on the performative nature of being entrenched with hyperfixations on masculinity and that the novel hopes to curate a space that shows there’s a way out of those strict binary conventions.
Haddad will be attending the upcoming Sydney Writers Festival in a series of panels including a conversation with fellow writer, Omar Sakr, discussing their debut novels respectively and delving into questions of family, history and identity. He will also be hosting workshops on writing memoir for aspiring authors, responding to one’s queerness and the relationship people have to space and identity.