I read Magda's book on my iPad and it is available from the iBook store. I read it in the period over the past year or two of reading memoirs including Oliver Sacks, Jenny Diskin, Caro Baum and now this.
Magda Szubanski was born 12 April 1961 in Liverpool, Merseyside, England. Her mother Margaret is Scottish-Irish and came from a poor family. Her father, Zbigniew Szubanski, came from a well-off Polish family and, as recorded in the Official Archives of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, was an assassin in a counter-intelligence branch of the Polish resistance movement in World War II. She attended high school at Siena College, Melbourne, and later studied fine arts and philosophy at the University of Melbourne.
In 1976, as a year 10 student, she captained a team on the television quiz It's Academic. - Wikipedia entry
What the Wiki entry for Magda doesn't say in as many words is that she is a multitalented individual with abilities across a number of disciplines that most of us don't possess or even come close to hoping to have.
Her memoir, Reckoning, takes us into a darker and more joyous search, as well.
Magda, like many immigrant kids, had to navigate the rough eddies of trying to fit in to a new country which despite the rhetoric is not so kind to the New Australians - while also trying at first to name and then to own her sexuality as well as trying to unravel her father's secret past in wartime Poland.
The surprise for me in reading this book was the ease with which Magda wrote it and her skill as a storyteller which has been on display on stage and screen for many years. Writing is a solitary and difficult task - confronting your demons and doing it with eye watering honesty is something else again.
Magda knew from an early age, or suspected it anyway, that she “liked” girls. She tried boys and tested herself and the journey she went on makes compelling reading.
Her father was a bit of a closed book in terms of talking about the past, something I can relate to as mine never spoke about his past. Our history was in Australia though he never lost his nostalgia for Europe and while he could he travelled there every year but never back to the Poland where he was born. I gave up trying to hear from him what his life was like there as he would always divert that conversation to soething else or not answer at all.
I went to the then-recently opened Holocaust Museum in Washington and looked through their testament database.
To my surprise I found a testament deposited by a woman living in Brooklyn who shared a maiden name with dad's mother, Bagelmacher. An unusual name. Could they be related?
I excitedly rang dad who was in Jerusalem at the time and said, “Dad I'm at the Holocaust Museum in Washington and found a testament here by an American woman with the same surname as your mother.” “What's the weather like in Washington?”
Magda's book also surprised me in the fact that it was a box of tissue read with damp eye moments as well as full blown grief and sadness. It's almost a cliché to say that great comedy comes from tragedy but there it is.
Magda had the great benefit of a family that were totally for her. Her brother and sister were important supports to her coming out to her parents who were both loving too.
I don't want to give too much away as you will get enormous pleasure and a full range of emotional responses from reading this book and I would be very happy indeed to be as good a writer as Magda when I grow up.