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  • Published: 25 July 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761340154
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $24.99

A Real Piece of Work

A Memoir in Essays

An exhilarating, thought-provoking and joyful debut that asks how we create our identities and how we can transcend them.

‘Language gave to me the body I knew was mine and brought into existence so many possibilities for what my gender can be.’

Across these twenty fresh and boldly intimate stories, Erin Riley writes about the things that matter most: family, heartbreak, humanity, justice and swimming, and the messy, hard graft of becoming one’s authentic self.

In weaving together their everyday while questioning society and its structures, Erin gifts us stories that double as a manifesto on how to disrupt and reinvent narrative, identity, love and community.

Life is complicated, messy and – when small risks are taken – even exhilarating. In Erin’s hands we fall in love, get curious and become exasperated with (and sometimes charmed by) the people in their life, emerging with new perspectives on how to be in the world.

Social worker and counsellor Erin Riley is a recipient of Penguin Random House Australia’s 2021 Write It fellowship program, which aspires to find, nurture and develop unpublished writers across all genres, with a focus on underrepresented sections of our community.

  • Published: 25 July 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761340154
  • Imprint: Viking
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $24.99

About the author

Erin Riley

By day, Erin Riley is a social worker, having spent most of the last decade working alongside marginalised populations in community aged care in and around Sydney. By night, Erin’s a skivvy-wearer, a dedicated reader, wrestling fan, swimmer of laps and a lover of routine. Erin brings a queer lived experience to their professional work and to their writing, and is fascinated and energised by the power of stories in both understanding and reimagining ourselves. They were a Penguin Random House Australia Write It fellow in 2021, and have been published in Kill Your Darlings, Bent Street and various corners of the internet. Erin lives in Sydney with their partner and Remy the dog.

Praise for A Real Piece of Work

Crisp and lively, these tales are witty, sharply observed and moving.

Sydney Morning Herald

Healing and hopeful and heartbreaking. Absolutely stunning. I am begging you to read this book.

sydney khoo

Erin Riley makes a fine companion through these stories of their life. With a knack for calm appraisal and a sharp essayist’s eye, they take us through the modern world’s pains and delights, its paradoxes and its people.

Ronnie Scott

Crisp, caring, and at times, delicate, Riley writes of turning to themselves with tenderness when at times the world can't even look or stares a little too hard. From the awakening of a young crush to the collective bricks of community, this is a nourishing read that offers up the complexity of love with two hands and a glorious moustache.

Kaya Wilson

What’s most striking about Erin Riley’s writing is its warmth – their stories are always genuine, in expression and emotion, and always huge of heart. Riley is a natural storyteller, and they combine this with a strong sense of all that’s artful in the essay: there are big and important ideas within these pieces, but they’re never laboured or forced. These are intimate, intelligent essays about belonging, interconnection, many and varied kinds of love, and how a person might make and find a clear calmness of self amid it all.

Fiona Wright

Essays full of heart, soul, probing intelligence and wonderful characters.

Fiona Kelly McGregor

In these pages, Riley is modelling a new way to be smart: soft and tender and sweet.

Yves Rees, Australian Book Review

Erin writes wonderfully about the complexity of their relationship with their parents.

ABC Life Matters

A Real Piece of Work is a joyful and heart-aching collection of essays.


A wonderful insight into the pieces of work we all need to do to make this complicated continent a more equitable place for everyone.


A remarkable new storytelling voice on the block.

Sun Bookshop recommended reading

A Real Piece of Work is a captivating and thought-provoking memoir that digs deep into the essence of vulnerability. Erin Riley’s powerful storytelling will challenge your perceptions, ignite introspection, and ultimately leave you with a profound appreciation for the strength vulnerability can bring.

Ramona Magazine

Riley's career as a social worker within marginalised communities provides an engaging intellectual throughline, while their love affair with Merryn, a spunky public health nurse, is the heartbeat . . . Riley finds comfort in their queer community, who perform an act of collective solidarity right when they need it most.

Big Issue

Deeply felt and thought-through; compelling, inviting, guileless; leaves you feeling free.

Jessica Stanley, Read. Look. Think.