JOHN HUGHES Biography - Writers


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Dr. John Hughes (born 1961) is a Sydney-based Australian writer and teacher. His           
first book of autobiographical essays, The Idea Of Home, published by Giramondo             
in 2004, was widely acclaimed and won both the New South Wales Premier's                   
Literary Awards for Non-Fiction (2005) and the National Biography Award (2006).             
Hughes was born in Cessnock, NSW to a father of Welsh descent, and a mother who             
was of Ukranian descent. Hughes states that as a second generation Australian he,           
"lived in two worlds as a child": one world the routine, real world of                     
Cessnock and the second the exotic foreign world of his European family's past.             
The sense that he was foreign became central to his sense of self. He felt                 
connected to an imagined past of his grandparents. As a child stories were told             
to him of how his grandparents fled Kiev during the Second World War and had               
walked on foot across Europe to Naples. From Naples, they emigrated to                     
Australia. The text in "The Idea Of Home" is devoted to the stories of this                 
journey passed down from Hughes' grandfather, and their impact on a young John             
Hughes undertook a medical degree, but shortly realised it was not for him. He             
switched to an undergraduate arts degree at Newcastle University in the late               
1970s , and at the end of his Honours year, was offered the Shell Scholarship               
to Cambridge. His preconceived notions of Europe as a place vastly more                     
sophisticated than his provincial Cessnock prompted him to go. However, as he               
spent more time in England, and struggled through a PhD on Coleridge, he                   
realised that his ideas were wrong, and that provincialism was, if not as                   
obvious, certainly still as potent in what was considered the centre of the                 
academic world. After this, he gave up his "life of letters", as he called it,             
and returned to Australia.                                                                 
Back in Sydney, he unsuccessfully tried to teach at his old university,                     
Newcastle, but his failure at Cambridge haunted him. He did, however, complete a           
PhD thesis at UTS, called "Memory and Forgetting". Hughes now teaches at                   
Sydney Grammar School, where he is Senior Master in English and Senior                     
Librarian. He took a position in the English Department of Sydney Grammar in               
1995, under Townsend, who was soon replaced by one of Hughes' colleagues at                 
Cambridge, Dr. John Vallance, as Headmaster.                                               
Hughes has been published in HEAT Magazine, edited by Ivor Indyk, and runs                 
Sydney Grammar's Creative Writing Group.