On these bitter winter nights, there’s nothing better than curling up with a book under a gigantic woolly rug, and I’ve always found books by authors of diverse backgrounds to be the most interesting. It’s great to see that some of our AWW readers have been thinking this too (on the book front at least; you might have a fire as well if you’re anywhere south of Brisbane!).
There were three reviews of books by Indigenous authors this month. Marilyn Brady reviewed Kayang and Me, by Kim Scott and Hazel Brown, a history and memoir written as a dialogue between Indigenous elder Hazel Brown, and author Kim Scott, who penned Benang and That Deadman Dance. Marilyn spoke very highly of the work, finding that it touched on many of the issues raised by Anita Heiss, in Am I Black Enough for You?, such as such as who has the right to speak as or on behalf of Indigenous people. Although this book has a male co-author, Marilyn included it in the AWW challenge partly because Hazel Brown’s voice is so fine and distinct, and in part because of the insight with which Scott deals with the whole issue of insider-outsider collaboration which is important in assessing gender and writing as well as the colonist-colonized relationship.
Lisa Walker reviewed Melissa Lukashenko’s Mullumbimby, finding it ‘full of cheeky humour and witticisms’. It has a serious side too, highlighting ‘the difficulty of maintaining Bundjalung culture and links to land’, while ‘the fraught issue of native title is also handled with honesty and insight.’ Lisa also described it as a ‘page-turner’, which I think is a great compliment for a book!
WriteReaderly reviewed The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades: Stories from Around the World by Indigenous author Munya Andrews, who was raised in Western Australis and has degrees in anthropology and law. The book is a comparison of lore about the Pleiades, a cluster of stars, from Indigenous and ancient cultures around the world. WriteReaderly was in two minds about the work, finding it ‘a litte too far over the hippy-woo-woo line, a little too often’, but appreciating the scope of Andrews’ scholarship.
Over July, in tune with NAIDOC week, which runs from 7th to 14th July and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we’re strongly encouraging AWW participants to read and review books by Indigenous women authors from any genre. In addition, to commemorate NAIDOC week itself, Lisa Hill of ANZ LitLovers blog has set up a challenge to review literary books by male and female Indigenous authors from anywhere in the world, and to post the links on her site.
It would be wonderful to see more reviews of Indigenous women writers, not only because reading is a great way to understand Indigenous issues, but also to explore the diversity of their writing.
If you need ideas for reading, you can turn to the post I penned earlier this month about Lisa’s challenge and our own celebration of Indigenous writing over July. To this I’d also like to add that My Book Corner’s list of recommended Indigenous titles for children and young adults.
Other reviews during May of books that showcase diversity include Bree’s post on Boomer and Me, Jo Case’s memoir about raising her son, Leo, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Bree describes the memoir as a ‘no holds barred parenting memoir, about more than just a diagnosis of Asperger’s’. While she found Case’s candid descriptions of being overwhelmed a little confronting, she notes that the book is useful for giving an insight into Asperger’s, and into ‘the worry for Leo’s lack of ability to sometimes relate to other children, what the diagnosis might mean for him in school and in life outside of it, [and] dealing with other parents who may not understand Leo’s little quirks.’ Jennifer of GoodReads also reviewed this book, finding it ‘interesting and challenging’. Nor was it specific to Asperger’s, she comments, but was also about ‘families and parenting, about friendships and partnering, about working through issues and finding out what works (and what doesn’t).’ Asperger’s is a hidden disability because the person isn’t visibly disabled, so books like these are great for raising awareness about people living with autism.
An apt title for any work about people of diverse backgrounds is Walk in My Shoes. This book by Alwyn Evans was reviewed by Raelke of Little Swag of Books. It’s the story of 14 year old Guinessa, who escapes Afghanistan with her family and arrives in Australia on a boat, where they are locked up again in a detention centre for processing. Raelke found the writing ‘so vivid and detailed’ that it was hard to remember that Guinessa’s and her family were fictional, and it brought her to tears.
This is the power of writing: it takes readers into the lives of people they might not otherwise meet and, in doing so, it broadens their own. I hope that, over July, readers will walk in the shoes of Indigenous women writers by reading their works. I really look forward to reading your thoughts.
I’m Jessica White, a novelist and researcher, and I’ve been deaf since age 4 when I lost most of my hearing from meningitis. I have a PhD from the University of London and have published two novels with Penguin, A Curious Intimacy (2007), about botany and lesbianism, and Entitlement (2012), about Native Title and grief. You can find more information about me at my website. I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.
I enjoy your diversity round-ups Jessica so thanks. Is Walk in my shoes YA?
Thanks Sue! Yes, Walk in my Shoes is YA, though I discovered that from Penguin’s website rather than the review. It sounds like an interesting read!
I agree it does …