We are delighted to sign Shirley Le, recipient of the inaugural Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers, for her debut novel. This is the first book deal to arise from the mentorship.

Shirley Le is a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Yagoona whose short stories and essays have been published in The Guardian, Overland, SBS Voices, The Lifted Brow, The Griffith Review, Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, Liminal and several Sweatshop anthologies. Le also co-wrote the critically acclaimed play, Sex, Drugs & Pork Rolls, which was presented by UTP and Sweatshop for the 2021 Sydney Festival.

As part of the mentorship, Shirley has worked with Affirm Press senior editor Ruby Ashby-Orr to develop her manuscript over the past two years. The book, as yet untitled, is an episodic novel exploring race, class and gender through the coming-of-age story of a Vietnamese-Australian woman living in Western Sydney in the aftermath of Pauline Hanson’s rise to political power.

The mentorship was conceived in 2018 by Affirm Press and the Western Sydney literacy movement Sweatshop to enable two Western Sydney writers from culturally diverse backgrounds to develop their debut novels with up to two years of editorial support and feedback and advice on building a writing profile. Affirm Press receives the first publishing option for the chosen manuscripts.

Shirley said, ‘I am humbled to be given the opportunity to work with Affirm Press on my debut novel. This book is also a reflection of my growth and journey as a writer. When I joined the Sweatshop Writers Group, I found my voice through literature.’

Martin Hughes, Affirm Press Publishing Director, said, ‘Shirley is a perfect example of what we envisaged with this mentorship. She is an exciting talent who our team has enjoyed collaborating with and nurturing. We are thrilled to sign her book, and hope this will be the first of many with the Sweatshop collective.’

Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Sweatshop Director, said, ‘It is a dream come true for the entire Western Sydney community to see one of our brightest rising stars sign with the multi-award-winning publisher, Affirm Press. As the founding director of Sweatshop, I have had the honour and privilege of collaborating with Shirley for the past eight years: her voice is courageous, unapologetic, complex and utterly original. Brace yourself, Australia – something very special is on its way!’

Along with Shirley, the second recipient of the inaugural Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers was Sara Saleh, a Palestinian-Australian Muslim poet who made history this year as the first Arab-Australian writer to win both the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the Judith Wright Poetry Prize.

Shirley’s novel will be published in 2023.