The first names for this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival have been announced, and they’re setting the stage for a week of thought-provoking, varied discussion.

The big name is Kim Gordon, bassist, guitarist and vocalist for iconic New York noise rock band Sonic Youth, who published her first book, Girl in a Band, in 2015. It’s a memoir of her youth, her time with the band during the 1980s New York rock and 1990s grunge scenes, her reflections on being a woman in the testosterone-fuelled music world, and her marriage to and ensuing breakup with the band’s co-founder, Thurston Moore. Gordon will be discussing her career, and the book, which sits comfortably in the rock-literature canon alongside Patti Smith’s Just Kids and Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl.

It’s a good time to be a Sonic Youth fan in Melbourne. Gordon’s ex-bandmate and ex-husband Moore will be in town for MIFF in August, when he’ll perform at the Astor, contributing a live score to a screening of experimental films by Ukranian filmmaker Maya Deren. Short of an (unlikely) Sonic Youth reunion, these events are a rare chance to get up close to the brains behind the band.

American historian Deborah Lipstadt’s best-known book, Denying the Holocaust, published in 1993, caused a stir at the time when it called British writer David Irving a Holocaust denier, resulting in a high-profile lawsuit. Lipstadt won, and the saga was the basis of the 2016 drama Denial, in which Lipstadt was played by Rachel Weisz. Lipstadt will be at the festival to discuss her latest book, Antisemitism: Here and Now, which charts the resurgence of antisemitism in the age of Trump, and looks at finding a way through a hostile and divided world.

DeRay McKesson is an American activist at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement. In his acclaimed 2018 book On the Other Side of Freedom, McKesson talks oppression, injustice and social liberation, and lays out his framework for social change.

This is the second year the festival has been curated by writer and broadcaster Marieke Hardy, and she continues to bring in fresh voices from a variety of fields.

Melbourne Writers Festival will run from August 30 to September 8. The full program will be announced on July 10.

Tickets for these events are on sale now.