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Leonee Derr

Leonee Derr

Episode 18 – Librarian’s choice

Leonee Derr

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This episode I am joined by Leonee Derr, who, for the last 20 years has dedicated her work-life to serving and supporting community – particularly those under-served, under-represented and those most experiencing marginalisation. She has worked in public libraries for the last 14 years with the majority of her advocacy focussed on amplifying voices of youth and young adults. In 2012 she received a scholarship to travel the world gathering evidence, doing research and participating in work placements. Her research explored how physical space and place, architecture and its design, create an atmosphere that signifies inclusion or exclusion to young people.  

Leonee has used her passion and voice to share important and crucial ideas about radical librarianship, social justice having a place in libraries, the myth of neutrality and safety amongst many other topics around the world presenting at conferences and publishing papers. Most recently, she and 4 other library leaders wrote the paper Who Do We Think We Are? Understanding Diversity in the Victorian Public Library Workforce. 

Leonee is currently on a sabbatical from public libraries focussing on writing and storytelling to build community in her role as a content producer for a fortune 500 company. 

She was kind enough to spend some time chatting with me about her proudest project, diversity and neutrality in libraries, uplifting humanity and amplifying voices of marginalised communities and then she picked some excellent books to review and pair!

There was some passionate swearing involved in this conversation so maybe listen with your headphones on 😉

The pairings: 

One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice’.

Gabriel García Márquez’s great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendía family and of Macondo, the town they have built. Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and its miracles. A microcosm of Columbian life, its secrets lie hidden, encoded in a book, and only Aureliano Buendía can fathom its mysteries and reveal its shrouded destiny. Blending political reality with magic realism, fantasy and comic invention, One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most daringly original works of the twentieth century. 

Leonee suggested reading this wonderful classic with a Red Vermouth on ice with a squeeze and slice of fresh lime. The vermouth has a saccharine sweetness reminiscent of flowers just before they rot and the lime gives it a sharp, citrus tang to cut through. This drink also has the alcoholic kick you’ll likely need for this sweeping, original and classic of stories 😉

The Yield by Tara June Winch

Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.

August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.

Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

Winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2020 – for Fiction, People’s Choice and Book of the Year
Shortlisted The Stella Prize 2020
Shortlisted Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction 2020
Longlisted Miles Franklin Literary Award 2020

The only thing Leonee could imagine drinking whilst reading this book is a calming Chamomile Tea. It helps that you can let it go cold when you get caught up in the story!


Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: it is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can America reckon with its fraught racial history?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son-and readers-the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path towards a kind of liberation-a journey from fear and confusion, to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is.

Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America’s history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward.

Justine suggests pouring yourself a long, cold vodka, and soda with a squeeze and slice or two of fresh lime – a drink that is easy and refreshing when reading difficult words.  


This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!   

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.       


Adele Walsh

Adele Walsh

Episode 12 – Librarian’s choice

Adele Walsh

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This episode I am joined by blogger, podcaster and youth literature advocate Adele Walsh!

Adele began blogging as Persnickety Snark in 2008 focussing on championing youth literature and its intended teen audience. She has been Program Coordinator for the State Library of Victoria’s Centre for Youth Literature, founding co-host of the literary podcast, Unladylike and co-host of the podcast What Would Danbury Do? about the Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn.

Adele is currently Senior Coordinator, Community Outreach & Engagement at La Trobe University Our conversation ranged all over from what exactly is snarkiness to creating podcasts around things we love and starting book blogs and getting reading hangovers … and of course, to the books and just what would we pair them with!

The pairings:

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs—the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother—who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

This is Adele’s favourite Young Adult book of all time, it feels like home to her and she would pair it with a bowl of Mac N Cheese and/or a glass of the dry, delightful and refreshing Steels Gate Rose.

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she’s long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.
Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn’t matter. She doesn’t care that his leg is less than perfect, it’s his personality she can’t abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless.

Adele suggested a Gin & Tonic would be the perfect pairing for this tart, dry and effervescent romance!

I Capture The Castle by Dodi Smith 

Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. Cassandra’s father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riche. Their step-mother Topaz has a habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of rich new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love.

This is a lovely, gentle read with a great voice in Cassandra. It is a book which feels quite nostalgic, with a longing for a happier past, yet it is hopeful for the future.

I would want to have something wholesome and calming whilst reading this book, perhaps a delicious chicken soup or a chamomile tea for the perfect rainy day comfort read!


This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches! 

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.   





Episode 7 – Books & Wine


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Wine and books are a match made in Preston! I was excited to chat with Gary at Jamsheed Urban Winery and only slightly nervous after he told me he majored in Literature and was very interested in what books I was going to suggest to pair with his wines … oh the pressure!

I think I did rather well but you’ll have to listen for yourselves to find out 🙂

Jamsheed Urban Winery in Preston is a fully functioning winery housed in a rather large warehouse in Preston. The space, like the wine, is packed with personality with an industrial brewery feel on one level and a cosy lounge and pool room on another. 

Gary and I sat in the lounge area of this working winery and had a lovely chat about three of his many beautiful wines, how he fell into the winemaking business and how a winery is similar to an author.

The wine and the books: 

2018 Jamsheed Beechworth Roussanne – honeysuckle, buttercup, fleshy grapefruit, mineral, textural

 Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg – This book starts out as the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Ninny Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women-of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern cafe offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. 

The tale is told in snippets, as the narrative jumps across time and space with various narrators. At the heart of the novel is the relationship between Idgie and Ruth. 

Ruth’s doomed marriage to Frank Bennet and the tragedy within that marriage is foreshadowed early – but the author drags on the suspense till the very end about what actually happened to Frank Bennet and whether Idgie had anything to do with it.  

There are also other dramas surrounding non traditional families, the 1930s modern woman, racism and small town life. 

This is a delightful, moving, sassy, textural, fleshy and earthy read which deserves to be read whilst drinking a delicious wine like this one.  

I should add that the movie is quite good, almost as good as the book! 


2019 Candy Flip – a blend of Pinot Gris, Mourvedre and Merlot – Pet Nat style – Red apple/Schapple, crushed blood oranges, rosehip and red rooibos tea flavours. Finishes lively and playful!  

The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson is a funny, clever and heart-warming debut novel. Kind of like a cross between Forrest Gump and Up! if you know those movies! 

The 100 year old man, Allan, is a wonderfully playful character. His love of vodka and indifference to politics combine with his ability to blow things up and get him into lots of trouble! Through Allan we see some of the momentous events of the twentieth century in a new light. We travel from Sweden to Spain, from the USA to China. 

It all starts on Allan’s one-hundredth birthday when, sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not…Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. 

This is a lively, light, bright, playful and fun read and highly recommended with a vibrant tipple! 


2017 Ma Petite Francine 100% Cabernet Franc – raspberry, cherry mulberry leaf, funky with some green pepper, red liquorice and red berry, earthy forest floor

Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Totally clueless, yet suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

What follows is a fantastical series of events involving secret booknerd societies, typography, ancient artifacts, codes and puzzles, the capabilities of computers, and the coolest bookstore you have ever heard of. It’s a collision of ancient mystery and very modern, internet-savvy characters. It is a juicy, red berry, funky and vibrant read.


Gary also shared some of his recommended reads:

Infinite detail by Tim Maughan – fantastic science fiction read.

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman is the best Australian novel Gary has read in a long time, unexpected and brilliantly conceived.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is a book of precision writing, not a word out of place and so detailed.



4 Albert Street, Preston, Vic 3053

[email protected] 

Literary Elixirs is recorded live in a noisy world. 

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.