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On the island of Upolu, in the high inland ranges of Aleisa, about 17 kilometres west by road from the Samoan capital of Apia, you will find the farming community where the Melbourne-based stage actor Ray Chong Nee was raised, and where his family still owns smaller plots.

Chong Nee spent about half of his first 12 years there, after being born in Apia’s Moto’otua Hospital in 1983, and the other half of those years in New Zealand, his family shuttling back and forth for work and for education, before they settled in Australia on the brink of his adolescence.

Following up a debut album never comes easy, but Sydney-based soul artist Ngaiire saw it as an opportunity to make a statement: her forthcoming album’s title, Blastoma, is a defiant, direct reference to the cancer that was diagnosed in her adrenal glands at age three.

“By the time I was five, I was very much aware of what was going on,” the 31-year-old artist says over coffee in Redfern. “I knew I needed to be strong: couldn’t sulk, couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I just had to deal with it.”

Fifty essays and dispatches on
what it means to be gay today.

On sale at Amazon and iTunes.

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