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I am a writer and general practitioner from Melbourne, Australia. I have been published in print and online. In 2021, I was the health columnist for The Saturday Paper and my non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian, The Age, The Weekend Australian, SBS Online, Meanjin, Overland, and the Griffith REVIEW, among others. My short story collection, Australia Day, won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript and went on to win the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. My debut novel, Room for a Stranger, was shortlisted for the 2020 NSW Premier’s Multicultural Prize and longlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Award. If Saul Bellow is right and “a writer is a reader moved to emulation” then I am moved by authors like Zadie Smith, Richard Yates, Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, Alice Pung and Christos Tsiolkas.

Australia Day was published by Text in July 2017. You can purchase print copies here. The audiobook can be purchased here

Room for a Stranger was published by Text in May 2019. You can purchase print copies here


Christos Tsiolkas

‘Melanie Cheng is an astonishingly deft and incisive writer. With economy and elegance, she creates a dazzling mosaic of contemporary life, of how we live now. Hers is a compelling new voice in Australian literature.’

Alice Pung

‘What a wonderful book, a book with bite. These stories have a real edge to them. They are complex without being contrived, humanising, but never sentimental or cloying—and, ultimately, very moving.’

Saturday Paper

‘If only the PM might pick up a copy, even by mistake.’A wonderful feat of storytelling…Melanie Cheng is an exciting new writer.’ 

Sydney Morning Herald

‘The happy surprise of Cheng’s work as a collection lies in her resolute grasp of the absolute normalcy of a culture that not so many years ago was divided and dually suspicious. The census gives us the facts but it takes fiction to make reality three-dimensional.’

Big Issue

‘The author’s empathetic eye and easy facility with dialogue make the anthology a strong debut, with the longer stories in particular offering breadth and depth…It feels like Cheng has taken a wide sample from the census to craft this inclusive portrait of contemporary Australia.’

Judges’ Report, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, 2018

‘The book bears witness to the author’s empathetic eye, multicultural characterisation and easy facility with dialogue…This short story collection explores what it means to belong, to be Australian; its insight from different vantage points and its photo-realistic narrative make it an exciting and impressive debut.’

Lifted Brow, Favourite Books of 2017

‘The stories are unpretentious, diverse, and a lot of the time, disconcertingly real. Cheng’s characters are just as well realised; they live on in your head long after you’ve put her book down.’



‘Melanie Cheng is doing the most difficult, most unfashionable thing: writing about the ordinary lives of ordinary people. Her accomplishment is catching the tremors of their uniqueness and, by underlining this, insisting that everyone is interesting. Being human is in itself extraordinary…This is an impressive and quietly significant book.’

Benjamin Law

‘My god, this was a joy to read. Every year there’s an Australian novel everyone endlessly passes around and recommends because they bloody love it so much, and this is going to be 2019’s. Room for a Stranger explores the high stakes of quiet moments, reveals the beauty of unlikely connections and shows how the antidote to shame is always compassion. After reading this impossible-to-put-down novel, Melanie Cheng is quickly becoming my favourite Australian writer.’

Christos Tsiolkas

‘Melanie Cheng is an astonishingly deft and incisive writer.’

Books + Publishing (starred review)

Those who enjoyed Cheng’s award-winning short story collection Australia Day will recognise similar themes at play here: the casual racism of white Australia, the human need to belong, and the complexity and compromise inherent in family relationships. Room for a Stranger is an impressive and delicately crafted novel from one of Australia’s most talented new voices.’


‘Combining these unlikely characters brings up social issues such as racism, how the elderly are perceived and valued, mental illness, and parental pressure. With such rich characterisation and beautiful prose, this is a wonderful, contemporary Australian novel.’

Saturday Paper

‘This is a book with great heart and its gentle unfurling of Meg and Andy’s friendship, as well as the nuances of their characters, takes place with empathy and skill. Cheng’s real gift as a writer is in this kind of portraiture, in no small part because of her commitment to writing about people who aren’t often centred in our stories. Room for a Stranger is a tender and moving book and one that is ultimately life-affirming and full of hope and kindness.’

Bram Presser

‘I can’t think of anyone who writes human connection as beautifully as Melanie Cheng. Room for a Stranger is superb.’

Emily Maguire

‘A beautifully written novel about how the stories we tell ourselves can get us stuck and how opening our lives to others might jolt us free again. Melanie Cheng offers both razor-sharp insight into the flaws and foibles of ordinary people and a deep warmth and tenderness for them. Room for a Stranger is that rare thing: a novel which stings and soothes all at once.’

Mirandi Riwoe

‘Melanie Cheng’s Room for a Stranger is a touching exploration of an unexpected friendship and how two vulnerable people find the strength to carry on. Cheng examines the complexities of human nature with gentle humour and thoughtful attention to the minutiae of her characters’ lives. I could not put this moving, insightful novel down.’

Felicity Castagna

‘A wholly engrossing portrait of two very different people whose collision reminds us that the need for companionship is ultimately what unites us all. With startling humanity and precision, Cheng shows us how complex, contradictory and difficult to define we are. Her characters will linger in your mind like a great open-ended question.’

Michael McGirr, Sydney Morning Herald

‘[Room for a Stranger] is beautifully done. Melanie Cheng’s unaffected wisdom is just delightful. You never feel she has an axe to grind or an agenda to push. She may not set out to change the world but the warmth of her affection for lonely people will help to do just that.’

Kill Your Darlings

Room For A Stranger’s beauty lies in confronting the unknown parts of ourselves. It’s facing up to feeling lonely, feeling like you got left behind, like you’re disappointing everyone you love, and being disappointed by your own expectations. Room For A Strangeris a timely reminder of all the badness in the world, and a reminder that we don’t need to give into it if we don’t want to.’

Better Reading

Room for a Stranger confirms [Melanie Cheng’s] status of one of Australia’s most gifted writers…It is an important Australian novel, thought-provoking and timely. A modern masterpiece.’

Who Weekly

‘A tender and touching novel written with a sharp understanding of human nature.’


‘A smart read that highlights the joy of human relationships.’

Harpers Bazaar

Room for a Stranger touches gently on the lives of ordinary people with great dexterity and empathy.’

Australian Women’s Weekly

‘Sacrifices provide shocking plot turns in this exquisitely written novel while also serving up a brilliantly pitched slice of modern Australian life.’

Books + Publishing

‘Cheng is a writer of quiet emotion and empathy, who carves out the fine details of her characters’ lives with tender but unsentimental precision…Room For A Stranger is a contemplative and rewarding read that shines a light on our potential for connection.‘


The Garret

RN Books and Arts

Writers Victoria

Kill Your Darlings podcast


Books and Publishing

6 thoughts on “Home”

  1. congratulations Melanie on your Victorian premiers award for Australia day!
    looking forward to seeing it published.


  2. Dr Cheng writes with wit, charm, deep insight and elegance—an Asian Han Su-yin in the making. I live in Melb, formerly from Malaysia


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