Welcome to the Australian Women Writers Challenge diversity round up for August and September 2020.

In the past two months we’ve had 47 reviews of 37 books by diverse Australian women writers, or books featuring themes of diversity, added to our database by wonderful readers and reviewers – thank you so much. This round up will feature a selection of these reviews; sadly, I don’t have space to highlight them all, though I’d love to.

I’m sure you’ll find at least one book here to add to your to-be-read list! I’ve just finished reading Anna Whateley’s Peta Lyre Rating Normal and it was so good! We’ve had 8 reviews linked up to the challenge so far for Anna’s debut young adult novel, and I’ll add mine to that tally soon.

Remember you can join in the Australian Women Writers Challenge at any time. You don’t need a website or even a Goodreads account. You can post your review on Facebook, Instagram or even your favourite online bookstore – Sign up for the Challenge here.

The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams

the dictionary of lost wordsThere were 3 reviews of Pip Williams’ debut novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words. Inspired by the true story of Edith Thompson, who contributed significantly to the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Brona’s Books tells us that: “William’s story turns the lens back around to the everyday words that women and the working classes used, as we watch Esme gather and collate her own dictionary of the words not included in the OED.” Here’s Brona’s favourite quote:

The Kaurna are the Aboriginal people who called this land home before this great hall was built, and before English was ever spoken in this country. We are on their land, yet we do not speak their language.

Jenny gave it 4 stars and loved the characters:

Her first novel brings us stories of women and the many words that went missing – however they were reclaimed in the most perfect way.

Georgia Rose applauded it as “a beautiful, gentle book to escape into during these weird times.”

The Erasure Initiative by Lili Wilkinson

Lili Wilkinson’s YA thriller starts thus: Cecily wakes up on a bus in the middle of nowhere with 6 other people, all of whom have amnesia. The Erasure Initiative has erased their memories.

There is no driver. The bus drives and drives without pause. A computer asks them to answer the Trolley Problem. Every time people appear in front of the bus. They’re pixels projected onto a screen. No one wonders if the other pixels – the scenery – is a projection.

Nalini at Dark Matter Zine highly recommends it, calling it “a speculative fiction thriller delving into questions of identity, power and choice.” It sounds intriguing:

Nia, one of the passengers, discovers she has a prosthetic leg. Although she’s a person of color, her leg is porcelain white with a Blue Willow design, augmented with a gold-filled ‘crack’ as in Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing an object with a gold join.

Jennifer-Cameron Smith notes you’ll need to get comfortable:

What an engrossing story this is! I picked it up and could not put it down because I needed to know how it would end.

Theresa Smith Writes interviewed the author. It sounds like the inception of the story was just as unsettling as the story itself:

….the image of a girl with no memory in a self-driving vehicle came to me in the middle of the night.

Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason

Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason is a novel about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.

It sounds like an incredibly powerful book that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

After reading it, Theresa Smith Writes said, “My heart is so full of so many emotions after reading this utterly perfect and deeply insightful novel.” This is a quote from the book that stood out to her:

‘Normal people say, I can’t imagine feeling so bad I’d actually want to die. I do not try and explain that it isn’t that you want to die. It is that you know you are not supposed to be alive, feeling a tiredness that powders your bones, a tiredness with so much fear. The unnatural fact of living is something you must eventually fix.’

Mrs B’s Book Reviews tell us to “[e]xpect some tears, laughter, joy and understanding.” Although she didn’t personally quite click with it, she found it well written and mused that:

Stark, bold and confronting, Meg Mason’s novel will be sure to reach into the hearts of many readers.

Kate from booksaremyfavouriteandbest called it a highlight of her reading year:

This is a book I will be pressing on people for many reasons. First and foremost, a story that makes me laugh and cry in equal measure will always top my list. The humour is dark and wry…

More reviews of books featuring diversity

Blackbirds by Aiki FlinthartCass Moriarty reviewed Blackbirds Sing, by Aiki Flinthart. She thought there was “much to appeal to readers who like to immerse themselves in this historical period” in this collection of 24 linked stories of women living in London in 1486, including women with disability and women of colour.

The House of YoussefReading Matters reviewed The House of Youssef, by Yumna Kassab, finding it “an unexpected treat” to read this short story collection which revolves around Lebanese immigrants living in the western suburbs of Sydney.

Georgia Rose reviewed Living on Stolen Land, by Ambelin Kwaymullina. A prose-styled look at our colonial-settler ‘present’, she looks forward to coming back to it again and again:

Living on Stolen LandI’m in awe of the way that Ambelin Kwaymullina is able to explain complex ideas and messy real world problems into short lines of beautiful text.

Reading for diversity

I hope you’ll consider adding one or more of these books to your reading list. You can also check out some of our recent Diversity round ups or have a look through the reading lists on our Reading for diversity page.

Find more books by Australian women writers from diverse backgrounds, or featuring diverse themes, by typing “Diversity” into the keyword search on our Books reviewed page (you can sort the mega-list by genre or year of publication to narrow your search a little).

Reviewing for diversity

Keep the reviews coming! Remember to check the “Diversity” box when you link your review if the author is from a diverse background or your review touches on Indigenous issues, migrant heritage, LGBTQI/non-binary or disability experiences.

About me

Rebecca BowyerI’m Rebecca Bowyer, a storyteller, novelist and Diversity Editor here at the Australian Women Writers Challenge. I live in Melbourne, Australia with my husband and two young sons. When not at my day job or wrangling kids, I can be found writing my next novel, or writing about books, reading and writing over at Story Addict.

Maternal Instinct, my first novel, is out now.