Sheward, Tamara

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Sheward, Tamara

PERSONAL:

Female.

CAREER:

Travel writer. Coeditor of The Travel Rag.

WRITINGS:

Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in South-East Asia (memoir), Summersdale Publishers (Sussex, England), 2005, published as Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia, Academy Chicago Publishers (Chicago, IL), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

Sydney Morning Herald writer Kate Browne describes traveler and adventurer Tamara Sheward as "a wild-child writer from Queensland, [Australia,] whose adventures in South-East Asia are recounted in [Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia], a humorous collection of politically incorrect tales of Asian drug dealers and stoned backpackers." Bad Karma is Sheward's debut work; it tells the story of a three-week backpacking trip the author took with her best friend, Elissa, through off-the-beaten-track areas of Southeast Asia. Together, Sheward and Elissa badger and pester their way across Southeast Asia, annoying fellow backpackers and local residents alike. "Without any planning and certainly without any preparation but for the purchase (and theft) of some rather useless travel guides," wrote BookPleasures.com contributor Kristin Place, they "set off on a haphazard adventure. This adventure would take them through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; countries ill-prepared for these two Australian guests." The pair's voyages through Southeast Asia, reported an Internet Bookwatch reviewer, are "recounted with a ‘you are there’ intimacy that is particularly vivid, energetic, witty, [and] occasionally bizarre."

One of the characteristics that makes Bad Karma different from run-of-the-mill wild adventure stories is the fact that Tamara and Elissa are often—and sometimes deliberately—confrontational and rude to some of the people they meet on their travels, whether they are locals or fellow tourists. They engage in shouting matches with local merchants and innkeepers they suspect of cheating them or treating them unfairly, including a woman in rural Thailand who reportedly refused the pair a room after Sheward refused to sleep with her. "Sheward does her best in … Bad Karma to convince us that she's crazy, inept, unattractive and insensitive," Gillian Dooley reported in a review for the Radio Adelaide program "Writers Radio," "but … I couldn't help liking her and, in a bemused way, admiring her as a writer." Dooley added that although "literal filth abounds" in Bad Karma, Tamara and Elissa "remain determinedly chaste throughout their adventures. They never laugh at anyone more than they laugh at themselves."

Reviews of Bad Karma were mixed. Generally, reviewers who objected to the book noted the author's attitude toward people in the countries she traveled through rather than her prose style. Sheward's writing "lacks the satirical prowess that would make the self-absorbed duo more likable," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer, though some instances of "elegant prose help" readers identify with the protagonists. "Sheward's version of events has clearly been exaggerated," a Kirkus Reviews contributor commented. "Slogging through this farrago of absurdities is like watching a documentary projected onto a fun-house mirror." Library Journal contributor Lisa Klopfer stated that Sheward's book could have been an "intrepid female travel tale spiced with slapstick humor," if Sheward had written something more "intrepid or … interesting." Nonetheless, Sheward "writes with a jovial style one could easily envision conversed over drinks at a local tavern," Cheryl A. Townsend wrote in a review for Her Circle eZine. "Her camaraderie and bawdiness" is reminiscent of the "acidic wit of Dorothy Parker."

The author, reviewers suggest, is at her best when describing the potentially disastrous and ridiculous encounters that await travelers—whether they brave the unbeaten path or stick to the air-conditioned comfort of their tour buses and four-star hotel rooms. "For the irrepressible Sheward," Browne concluded, "it is exactly within the clichéd, 15-countries-in-15-days, drink-your-weight-in-booze, foggy bus tour that perhaps the very last frontier of travel writing does lurk. ‘Someone has got to do a book about a Contiki bus tour. I think it would be hilarious,’ she giggles. ‘I can't believe no one's done it yet. Come to think of it … maybe I'll do it!’"

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in South-East Asia (memoir), Summersdale Publishers (Sussex, England), 2005, published as Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia, Academy Chicago Publishers (Chicago, IL), 2007.

PERIODICALS

Internet Bookwatch, April 1, 2008, review of Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of Bad Karma.

Library Journal, October 15, 2007, Lisa Klopfer, review of Bad Karma, p. 81.

Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2007, review of Bad Karma, p. 52.

Sydney Morning Herald, November 11, 2003, Kate Browne, "Danger Is My Business," review of Bad Karma, and author interview.

ONLINE

BookPleasures.com,http://www.bookpleasures.com/ (July 17, 2008), Kristin Pace, review of Bad Karma.

Her Circle eZine,http://www.hercircleezine.com/ (July 17, 2008), Cheryl A. Townsend, review of Bad Karma.

Travel Rag,http://www.thetravelrag.com/ (July 17, 2008), author profile.

OTHER

"Writers' Radio," Radio Adelaide, August 30, 2003, Gillian Dooley, transcript of author interview.