Welcome to the Australian Women Writers Challenge diversity round up for October and November 2020.

In the past two months we’ve had 40 reviews of 26 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 pleased to say that in the tag end of 2020 I’m finally getting my reading mojo back. I hope you are too, and that you find your next read here in this round up! I always find a few that I add to my to-be-read list – it’s an added bonus of being Diversity Editor here!

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.

It’s Been A Pleasure, Noni Blake, by Claire Christian

Author Claire Christian describes her latest novel, It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake, as “a queer, pleasure-seeking romp that finds thirty-six year old Noni on a quest to try and right the wrongs of her sexual past and inject more pleasure into her life.”

Quite frankly, it sounds utterly delightful and I can’t wait to read it. 3 of our reviewers certainly thought so:

  • Kali Napier called it a “magnificent novel” with ”some of the best sex scenes I have ever read”.
  • Marianne gave it 4 stars and wrote that, “While it won’t appeal to everyone, Claire Christian’s second novel is funny and ultimately feel-good.”
  • Emily Wrayburn, a long-time fan of Christian, wrote that “I had no idea how much it would affect me.” She was inspired by “The idea of a woman taking control of her life and making choices on the fly and not worrying about what people might think.”

Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon

Nadia King’s review of Kate Gordon’s latest middle grade #OwnVoices novel gave me all sorts of chills. Describing this story of 11-year-old Aster who sets herself the goal of doing one good thing for another person every day, King says:

Reading can do many things and if one of its aims is to build empathy, Aster’s Good, Right Thing achieves this beautifully giving readers a real view into what living with anxiety translates to for ordinary, everyday life.

Then I moved on to reading Ashleigh Meikle’s review of the same book and was beset with even more chills:

I was moved so much and saw so many elements of anxiety and isolation in this novel, that showed the power of connections with friends can help us feel less anxious, and less isolated.

Clearly a must-read for kids and adults alike.

An Unusual Boy, by Fiona Higgins

We had 4 reviews submitted for Fiona Higgins’ new novel about a mother’s struggle to raise her 3 children, including 11-year-old son Jackson, an unusual boy in a world that prefers normal.

Both Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out and Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf noted that Higgins’ invokes far more empathy from the reader for Jackson than he would get from most adults in the real world. As Shellyrae explains:

Jackson’s unusual thought processes and behaviour are communicated well. He is both literal and linear in his thinking, and has obsessive-compulsive traits. Often overwhelmed by his thoughts and the workings of his prodigious memory, his behaviours are sometimes bizarre, and relating to others is a daily challenge. Jackson is an appealing character who evokes empathy in the reader, but in reality would likely frustrate and annoy adults who lack such insight, as shown by the impatience of his teacher, and the reactions to his headstands in a cafe.

Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf, who has her own – 4-year-old – unusual boy, wrote that she “read this book in one day and… cried from beginning to end.”

And I adored this quote, which Carolyn Scott added to her review. Nana Pam says to Jackson’s sister :

Normal doesn’t exist, darling. It’s just a cycle on the washing machine.

Mrs B interviewed author Fiona Higgins, who had this to say about the genesis of the novel:

An Unusual Boy is inspired partly by both personal and professional elements. Personally, I’ve known children – and adults, for that matter – who are ‘different’ in some way (some with a diagnosis, others without), and witnessed their joys and struggles. Professionally, I’ve worked for many years with charities and youth mental wellbeing is an area I’m passionate about.

We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad

Ashleigh Meikle reviewed Katrina Nannestad’s novel, We Are Wolves, about Liesl and her family who must flee into the snow from Hitler’s soldiers. A book of hope that also teaches the horrors of war through a child’s eyes, Ashleigh wrote:

This was one book that I couldn’t put down, that I had to finish, and stayed up well into the night to do so, so I could find out if Liesl achieved what she set out to do when she was first separated from the adults in her life.

More reviews of books featuring diversity

Kali Napier reviewed Elizabeth Tan’s Smart Ovens for Lonely People, a collection of short stories “about clothing, terraria, balloons, and the fish in tanks at a Chinese Restaurant. So completely original and brilliantly structured”.

Kim Forrester @ Reading Matters reviewed Jessie Tu’s debut novel, A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing, about a former violinist child prodigy finding her feet as an adult. She wrote that the story’s “real strength lies in its perspective of an Asian-Australian trying to succeed in a closeted world dominated by the white and the privileged.”

Cathy Powell reviewed Anita Heiss’s 2011 memoir, Am I Black Enough For You? She very much enjoyed Heiss’s writing style, calling it “a lovely tribute to her family and also to her desire to educate all Australians about the Aboriginal people.”

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.