Once again, AWW’s readers have listened to a range of voices in Australian women’s writing and brought them to our attention. Sometimes, though, you only need to pick up one book to find a choir.
The stories in Kaleidoscope, as Elizabeth of Earl Grey Editing writes, feature ‘queer characters, characters who use wheelchairs, characters dealing with depression and chronic illnesses, characters from a range of ethnic backgrounds’. However, difference isn’t necessarily at the heart of each story, as she continues, ‘The diversity of the characters in this story is completely incidental to the plot–a part of who they are but not the whole of who they are. I loved this about the anthology.’
Elizabeth Lhuede covered this work and other issues about diversity in her young adult roundup for April and May. It’s very positive to see these stories for young adults in circulation; I would definitely have appreciated reading something like this as I was growing up.
Maxine Beneba Clarke’s short stories in Foreign Soil also bring a number of different characters to the reader, as Jennifer of GoodReads found. Ranging across locations, people and class, the stories are not those that ‘enable us to slip easily into assumptions or judgments. They are stories which invite us to question assumptions, to wonder about the voices we don’t usually hear (or perhaps choose not to listen to?)’. A book that makes someone think is always worth picking up!
Maxine also penned a guest post for our focus on women writers of ethnic heritage in April, about the importance of solidarity among women writers of colour. You can read it here.
Alice Pung, also a writer of ethnic heritage, is the author of the memoirs Unpolished Gem and My Father’s Daughter. Tarla was ‘dazzled’ by Unpolished Gem, but it took her a while to get to My Father’s Daughter because of the discomforting content about the Cambodian killing fields, from which Pung’s family fled. She found that the latter memoir couldn’t really be read apart from the former.
Lisa Walker enjoyed Emma Ashmere’s debut novel, The Floating Garden, which weaves together the stories of Ellis, a lesbian, and Rennie, who escapes her abusive husband, in 1920s Sydney. Walker describes the novel as ‘a beautifully written, gently humorous and highly detailed slice of history. It also has an absorbing story-line which kept me turning the page.’ She also sees in it similarities with Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, writing that ‘both books explore the wider events in society through the lens of the people affected and both focus on a working class group of colourful individuals.’
Carol of Reading, Writing & Riesling reviewed Poster Girl, the memoir of Beccy Cole, a country singer who made music, divorced, raised a child, came out and found love. Cole’s story is ‘courageous, grounded, optimistic and full of love’ and Carol ‘enjoyed every minute of this heart-warming and sincere story.’
It’s also good to see reviews of the Miles Franklin winning The Eye of the Sheep by Sophie Laguna, as this is a novel related by a young boy with autism. Jennifer of GoodReads wrote ‘at times it’s a heartbreakingly sad read, but it is never without hope. Jimmy Flick may be an unreliable narrator, but his voice is very real.’ The voices of people with disability are few and far between, and it’s great that they’re appearing in novels such as these, and in works like Kaleidoscope.
Sadly, no works by Indigenous women writers made it onto readers’ radars in May. I hope that we can rectify that over July. In the spirit of NAIDOC week, we’re hosting a focus on Indigenous women writers throughout the month. Readers who post a review of a work by an Indigenous women writer will be in the running for a copy of Me, Antman & Fleabag by the Unaipon award winning Gayle Kennedy. You don’t need to sign up – I’ll find your review by looking through our new Search Books page.
If you need recommendations for books by Indigenous women writers, you can head to this page and type ‘Indigenous’ into the Keyword Search box. Give it a go and see what you can find!
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) and Entitlement (2012). I’m working on a book of non-fiction about Rosa Praed and her deaf daughter Maud, as well as my third novel, The Sea Creatures, which won funding through the Australia Council’s Artists With Disability program. You can find more information about me at my website. I’m also on Twitter @ladyredjess.