We have done it! Ten weeks before the end of the year we exceeded the number of reviews of histories, biographies and memoirs we received for the entire year in 2012. In this roundup I highlight some interesting reviews we have received recently and have a list of books published in 2013 which you might want to consider giving as Christmas presents.
What better place to start this roundup than with the review that tipped us past the post? Michael Jongen reviewed a memoir written about an Australian woman’s love for an asylum seeker and the difficult task of convincing the government to allow her husband to settle in Australia. Michael found Love versus Goliath by Robyn Oyeniyi fascinating and well written:
Oyeniyi’s writing can be calm and dispassionate as she dissects DIAC’s complex rules and regulations with all their absurdities and then become emotional and raw at times as she describes her mental state…
Michael recommends that every school library should hold this book.
David Golding reviewed a book that is very pertinent to the Challenge. In 1991 Drusilla Modjeska wrote a history of Australian women writers, Exiles at Home: Australian Women Writers, 1925-1945. Golding praises the way Modjeska conveyed the difficulties that the writers were working under and how they supported each other. Yet he observes that “[t]he biggest flaw is the lack of engagement with the actual writing the women did”.
If the history of the Cold War interests you then Sheila Fitzpatrick’s memoir, A History in the Archives may be a book for you. Sheila Fitzpatrick is a historian who researched in Soviet archives during the 1960s. “I enjoyed this book, and the undercurrent of Cold War tension that runs underneath it”, remarks Challenge reviewer, Janine Rizzetti.
Child abuse is a difficult issue to write about but as Challenge reviewer Louise Allan says, it needs to be written about and read. Louise reviewed When We Remember They Call Us Liars, a memoir recounting a childhood blighted by abuse and poverty by Suzanne Covich. Louise describes the writing as “tightly packed, honest and gut-punching”.
It is not easy to write a negative review. On the one hand the author should be treated fairly. They should not be denigrated in order to assert the reviewer’s superiority or humiliated for the purpose of amusing readers of the review. Yet it is important that reviewers give an honest appraisal of a book. If it does not meet the standards that a book of its kind should meet then the reviewer should say so.
Sally handled this tough task well in her review of Invisible Women of Prehistory by Judy Foster. Sally felt that Foster’s evidence was not strong enough to support the author’s assertion that people in prehistorical societies were peaceful because there was equality between men and women. Sally concludes:
Despite my initial interest in the title, and the best of intentions, the book just didn’t work for me… Still it is always good to present alternative ideas so that they can be discussed and progress in our knowledge of the past goes forward. It is never good to be closed minded and dismiss ideas out of hand, and I haven’t here, however she just didn’t give me enough evidence to support her arguments.
The final book I want to mention is The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright. This is about women on the Ballarat gold fields and their role in the Eureka Stockade. I had the pleasure of reading this book recently and enjoyed reading about cross dressing on the gold fields, women being the main bread-winner for their families and running successful businesses. The population of the Gold Fields was young and this was reflected in the youthful challenging of norms. This is a book that those who were turned off the history of the Gold Rush at school will enjoy. You can read my review here. The book was released at the end of October and I have just heard that it has gone for a second print run.
A Book for Christmas?
To help you choose the right book to give someone for Christmas I have made two lists of books that are available in bookshops now. The reviews written for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge are a wonderful aid to choosing a good book to give as a gift. You can pick a genre and delve into the reviews, or you can read the regular roundups for your chosen genre to find the ideal gift book. I have listed the twenty-seven histories, biographies and memoirs published this year which have been reviewed for the Challenge.
Christmas is the highpoint in the year for book sales, so publishers are currently releasing a feast of new books. With the assistance of the Australian Historical Association twitter stream and publishers’ websites I have made a list of recently published histories, biographies and memoirs which have not been reviewed for the Challenge yet that you might want to check out. Keep in mind that this only lists the histories, biographies and memoirs that I know of which have been published since September. If you know of any more which have been recently released and are currently available for purchase please let me know in the comments.
This is the last roundup I will write this year. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy reading New Year!
Reviews of Histories, Biographies and Memoirs Published in 2013
|Vanessa Berry||Ninety 9||Giramondo||Sian Campbell|
|Annabelle Brayley||Bush Nurses||Simone|
|Zelie Bullen||Love, Sweat and Tears||Unwin||Aussie Reads|
|Janet Butler||Kitty’s war||UQP|
|Jo Case||Boomer & Me||Hardie Grant|
|Georgia Cassimatis||Red Carpet burns||Harlequin AU||Bree|
|Kristy Chambers||Get Well Soon||Penguin/UQP|
|Kirstie Clements||The Vogue Factor||Melbourne University Press|
|Annie Cossins||The Baby Farmers||Allen & Unwin|
|Torre de Roche||Love with a Chance of Drowning||Penguin|
|Sheila Fitzpatrick||A Spy in the Archives||Melbourne University Press||Janine Rizzetti|
|Judy Foster||Invisible Women of Prehistory||Spinifex Press||Sally|
|Angela Goode||Through the Farm Gate||Allen & Unwin||Shelleyrae|
|Alice Greenup||Educating Alice||Simone|
|Belinda Hawkins||Every Parent’s Nightmare||Simone|
|Ruth Hegarty||Bittersweet Journey||Maree Kimberley|
|Julietta Jameson||Cliffy: The Cliff Young Story||Text Publishing|
|Kent MacCarter and Ali Lemer (id)||Joyful Strains: Making Australia Home||Affirm|
|Krissy Nicholson||Tsunami and the Single Girl||Allen & Unwin|
|Kristina Olsson||Boy, Lost||UQP||Jessica White|
|Robyn Oyeniyi||Love versus Goliath||Self published||Michael Jongen|
|Kate Richards||Madness: A Memoir||Viking|
|Kellee Slater||How To Do a Liver Transplant||Helen|
|Helen Trinca||Madeleine: A Life of Maeleine St John||Text Publishing||Whispering Gums|
|Yvonne Ward||Unsuitable for Publication: Editing Queen Victoria||Janine Rizzetti|
|Marie Williams||Green Vanilla Tea||Finch Publishing||Nike Sulway|
|Clare Wright||The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka||Text Publishing||Yvonne Perkins|
Books Released Since September 2013: not yet reviewed
|Robyn Arrowsmith||All the way to the USA: Australian WW2 War Brides||Self-published||WWII, Australian women in post-war USA|
|Joan Beaumont||A Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War||Allen & Unwin||WWI history|
|Saskia Beudel||A Country in Mind: Memoir with Landscape||UWA Publishing||Memoir|
|Annie Boyd||Koombana Days||Fremantle Press||History of the early 20thC ship SS Koombana|
|Kate Campbell||My Story: A Path to Hope||UWA Publishing||Memoir|
|Gabrielle Carey||Moving Among Strangers||UQP||Memoir, Randolph Stow|
|Heather Henderson||A Smile for My Parents||Allen & Unwin||Memoir of daughter of Sir Robert Menzies|
|Janette Holcomb||Early Merchant Families of Sydney||Australian Scholarly Publishing||History of business in Australia|
|Mei-fen Kuo||Making Chinese Australia||Monash University Publishing||Australian-Chinese newspapers 1892-1912|
|Meshel Laurie||The Fence-Painting Fortnight of Destiny||Allen & Unwin||Memoir by a comedian|
|Christi Malthouse||Malthouse||Allen & Unwin||Biography of an Aussie Rules football coach|
|Rachel Miller||Wife and Baggage to Follow||Halsted Press||Women in Australia’s diplomatic service 20thC|
|Nell Musgrove||The Scars Remain: A Long History of Forgotten Australians and Children’s Institutions||Australian Scholarly Publishing||Child welfare|
|Marian Quartly, Shurlee Swain & Denise Cuthbert||The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption||Monash University Publishing||Adoption in Australia|
|Ying Ying||Starting with Max||Allen & Unwin||Memoir about life in a new country|
I’m Yvonne Perkins. For the last few years I have been working as a research assistant on a variety of historical projects one of which was an investigation of the history of teaching reading in Australia. Currently I am researching the beliefs, religious or otherwise, of soldiers who served in World War I. In my spare time I enjoy reading history and writing about it on my blog, Stumbling Through the Past. I can also be found @perkinsy on twitter.
Nice roundup Yvonne, and I love your tables at the end. I’m still hoping to read Kitty’s war, and would like to get to the Claire Weight on Eureka. So many books …
Thankyou Sue! Australian women historians, biographers and autobiographers have had a wonderful year scooping many awards and dominating shortlists. Kitty’s War and Forgotten Rebels of Eureka not only demonstrate rigorous research and insightful analysis, they shine because they are written so well. They are a delight to read as well as encouraging their readers to think deeply about the history they are reading.
Yes, so many books to read!
That’s an impressive list, Yvonne, must have been quite a bit of work to compile but it’s much appreciated!
Thankyou Shannon! I hope readers will use this list to buy books to give as Christmas presents. It would be great if people could add a comment here if they do buy a book by an Australian woman writer for a Christmas present with the name of the book. It would help to demonstrate that this Challenge makes a real difference to people’s purchasing and reading habits.