Western Sydney takes centre stage in a popular new novel that you may have seen sitting proudly on bookshop shelves all around Sydney, and Australia.
Something Blue is a beautiful and often funny story of a young woman navigating life, family, and love in her larger-than-life community. It is the debut novel of author Alex Sarkis who was born and bred exactly where the story is set – the West.
The WEST Journal sat down with Alex for a bite to eat and to hear all about the creator behind this incredibly authentic and raw story of life in the suburbs we know and love.
Fittingly, Alex invited us to meet at one of her favourite Lebanese sweet shops, El Sweetie, in the heart of Granville. And sitting comfortably enjoying traditional sweets Alex opened up about the things that have inspired her as a person and writer who calls Western Sydney home.
“My whole life has been out West. I think it’s definitely been fundamental in terms of shaping me into who I am today and who I am as a writer,” says Alex, “I honestly can't imagine growing up anywhere else other than the West.”
Although Something Blue is her first published novel, Alex’s love and passion for writing began as a child and continued throughout her teenage years. She was encouraged to read avidly by her mother who is an artist and studied English Literature at university and her father who is a business owner in the West.
“I liked English and reading books and I always loved writing even as a kid. It was a passion throughout my teen years, and I began writing as a hobby,” Alex says.
One book that has long inspired Alex is the 1990s novel Looking For Alibrandi by Sydney author Melina Marchetta which tells of an Italian-Australian girl living in Inner-West Sydney going through her teens.
“I don't think I've ever read anything that I was able to relate to on that level,” Alex says, “it just seemed to me there was a massive gap in the market on that front.”
What Alex realised was that despite Western Sydney being home to almost three million people, there was a lack of literature depicting the vibrance of these communities.
“I wanted people out West - people like me, readers like me - to be able to pick up a book and relate to it.”
And so, partly in an effort to fix her writer’s block, Alex set out to create a novel set right in the heart of the West – a place she knew so well. From the characters to the street names, to the cars and conversations, Something Blue is a beautiful illustration of life in Western Sydney as part of the Lebanese community – with all the joys and complexities packed in.
“Everything's influenced. I think that goes for any writer; their upbringing, and the environment they grew up in, really influences who they are,” Alex said
“Language is a big thing in the West, there are so many cultures and ethnicities out here. A lot of conversations are a mash up of Arabic and English which is what I tried to get into in ways that non-Arabic-speaking readers are still able to understand.”
Although the story is entirely fiction, Alex drew inspiration from her loved ones and those around her and sought to build many-layered characters. With a talent for vivid description, you see just how well Alex knows Western Sydney making it easy to place yourself inside the captivating story.
“I enjoyed writing it and I knew that people, not just in the West, but outside of the West, all over Australia will be able to pick up this book, read it and relate to it, and find it funny,” Alex says.
Ultimately, it’s people like Alex who are helping inspire people to see the beauty of life and community in Western Sydney. With her own personality shining through, Alex proudly represents where she is from in an incredibly humorous, real, and relatable way.
Something Blue is truly a love letter to Western Sydney and is an easy and exciting read clearly created by someone who lives and breathes life out West.