The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge has revealed that Australian women have written a large number of histories, biographies and memoirs. Our mid-year overview identified that seventy-nine different books had been reviewed in just six months. Each month when I read the reviews for these genres I always read about some books that I was not previously aware of.
We received two reviews this month of a recently published memoir. Tsunami and the Single Girl is about Krissy Nicholson’s life as a foreign aid work and her quest to find her life partner. Lauren Murphy comments, “”What I loved about this story is the contrast of the idealistic view (that I often have) of travelling and aid work against the realities of this lifestyle.” Shelleyrae Cusbert says, “Though I probably would have preferred less focus on her love life, I did think the personal focus counteracted the sterotypical [sic] perception of aid worker’s as selfless martyrs.”
This is the power of a good memoir or biography. It reveals the author as a multi-faceted person, not a rarefied caricature. Readers like Lauren and Shelleyrae want to read about the imperfections of the author and the difficulties they confront.
Simone and Helen McKenna reviewed memoirs written by women who have worked hard to develop fulfilling and interesting careers.
Simone reviewed Zelie Bullen’s memoir, Love, Sweat and Tears. Bullen grew up in Perth and has had some difficult times dealing with the deaths of people close to her throughout her life. However, while her personal life was difficult she focussed on her goal of working with animals. Through initiative and hard work she went on to train animals for movies such as Zorro, Babe and War Horse.
I was amazed on many occasions how Zelie simply went to the “best” person in the industry and asked for help or training and was given it. So many of us stand back and complain that we aren’t where we want to be but have never made the effort or even researched what we need to do to get where we want to go. Her story also illustrates that you don’t always need an impressive education to achieve great things in life.
Helen McKenna discovered that How to Do a Liver Transplant was an enjoyable memoir by Kellee Slater who grew up in Brisbane and became a surgeon. Helen concludes:
How To Do A Liver Transplant is an enjoyable and very interesting book that gives a massive insight into a very difficult and demanding job. It also celebrates that women really can do anything given the right opportunity and support.
The book Janine Rizzetti reviewed is a contrast to these memoirs. Roving Mariners is a history about whale and seal hunting in the southern seas off Australia. Author, Lynette Russell, wrote about Aboriginal men and women who worked in this industry during the nineteenth century. Janine says:
This is a beautifully written and nuanced reflective history. It is at the same time easy to read and yet requires much of the reader as well in terms of weighing the argument and her use of sources.
I can’t give an overview of every book reviewed each month, but this means that there are good books in our list of reviews just waiting for you to read. You can browse the books reviewed since July or you can read the reviews written during the first half of the year.
We are very close to exceeding the number of reviews of histories, biographies and memoirs we received for the entire year in 2012. We only need two more reviews to surpass our 2012 effort.
Keep reading and writing!