A very quiet month in this corner of the challenge. I can sympathise having read a grand total of 2 books myself for the last two months. And one of them was a re-read (and if I’m being really honest the other was mostly illustrations)…
For May there was:
8 Books Reviewed (2 poetry)
The most prolific reviewer was: Jennifer Cameron-smith with 2 books reviewed.
The most reviewed title this month was: all of them! As each title was reviewed once.
As always, click on the coloured quote from a review to be taken directly to it. And a quick reminder: this round up includes poetry submissions despite their not being non-fiction. It just came out in the wash that way!
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Before proceeding please be aware that one of the books discussed below mentions Aboriginal deaths in custody. There is no description or imagery relating to this topic.
Luckily for us, despite the small number of reviews, our poetry books for this month are both first time reviews for the challenge. A Thousand Crimson Blooms (2021) by Eileen Chong is a body of verse about connections. It examines the histories—personal, familial and cultural—that form our identities and obsessions. Jonathan Shaw’s review looks closely at the title poem as a window into a collection where “connectedness and rootedness provide a sustaining background in poetry that mostly deals with personal pain: bereavement, sexual abuse, illness and surgery, involuntary childlessness, the challenges of migration.” Jonathan goes on to say “This is a terrific book. I learned a lot, I cried, I laughed, I was confronted…I was sent down interesting rabbit holes, and found myself reflecting deeply on my own life. Eileen Chong reads her own work beautifully”.
The other poetry first-time review was of the anthology Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today (2020) edited by Gomeroi poet and academic Alison Whittaker. A reflection on the power of First Nations poetry through First Nations poetry, it is divided into five thematic sections and each one is introduced by an essay from a leading Aboriginal writer and thinker. Nancy Elin highly recommends it saying that it “reveals that poets are holders of the fire” and “each poet has his or her own style to let the language burn.” Nancy’s review is poetic in and of itself, and I love the penultimate lines:
“how the fire (poetry) keeps moving responsibly
with the threat of reckoning….and the offer of restoration.”
A new review for non-fiction this month was Old Seems to be Other People (2021) by Lily Brett. A series of memoir essays, it deals with the fears and challenges of ageing, as well as the loss and pain associated with it. But it is simultaneously light-hearted and embracing, using humour to create a dialogue with the reader. Reviewed by Brona at Brona’s books, she encapsulates her review by saying the book is like “undemanding time with an old friend.” However, I also appreciated Brona’s candour when she says “A charming familiarity imbues both her fiction and non-fiction. So much so, that I’m generally left feeling like I don’t need to dip my toes into any more of her books, because I have a pretty good idea what I will find inside. This is a good and bad thing I guess.”
Conversely, Katie Elder’s discussion of Chloe Hooper’s Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee from 2008 becomes the tenth review for this title in our database. But it points to the significance and relevance it still has, as the crisis of Aboriginal deaths in custody only worsens in Australia, and across the world for Indigenous peoples. It follows Hooper as she attempts to seek justice for the family of thirty-six-year-old Cameron Doomadgee who was arrested for swearing at a white police officer and died in jail forty minutes later. As Katie writes, this is a must-read because it remains a “timely reminder that we all need in light of not only current events but repeated historical failures.”
Also of note this month was the happy coincidence of two books of a similar (and infrequently reviewed) variety—location-based books. First was Grave Tales: Melbourne Vol. 1 (2020) by Helen Goltz who visits eleven Melbourne cemeteries to tell the stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events that made local and national headlines. Reviewed by Tracey at Carpe Librum, she writes that the book “took me on an interesting trip through the streets of Melbourne with fresh eyes and I recommend it for taphophiles and non fiction readers interested in social history.” The second title was Adelaide (2011) by Kerryn Goldsworthy which was reviewed by Jennifer Cameron-smith. This book is a museum of sorts—a personal guide to the city of Adelaide using objects that embody its beautiful, commonplace, dark, and contradictory history. Jennifer writes: it is “a unique guide to Adelaide: a view of the city through an eclectic selection of objects. As I write this, I can hear Paul Kelly singing ‘Adelaide’.”
As with almost every month this year, May also included reviews of a few other popular social history titles. Including The Husband Poisoner (2021) reviewed by Jennifer Cameron-smith which you can read here and The Freedom Circus (2020) reviewed by Cloggie Downunder which you can read here.
Thanks to all the Reviewers
Here is a list of the reviewers mentioned this month and where you can find their work. Visit them, if and when you can. Say that I sent you!
- Jennifer Cameron-smith — here at Goodreads
- Jonathan Shaw — at shawjonathan.com
- Nancy Elin — at nancyelin.wordpress.com
- Brona — at Brona’s Books
- Katie Elder — here on Instagram
- Tracey — at Carpe Librum
- Marianne (Cloggie Downunder) — here at Goodreads
Until Next Month!
Happy Reading 🤓📚
And remember, you can join 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 any other online medium – Sign Up for the Challenge or Add Your Review now.
By Tegan Edwards
I write about stories and language at Slant Postscripts. I’ve worked extensively on nineteenth century fiction by women and decided it was high time I was more acquainted with books from this period that are closer to home. Did you know that the first book ever published on mainland Australia was by a woman? I have a project about it coming soon.
I write mostly about literary history and fiction which make up much of my research work. However my more personal writing often deals with different concepts such as illness, interpretation, trauma, injustice, and melancholia. Add me on Goodreads – I’d love to see what you’re reading!
I see what you mean … but then these two categories are always a bit lighter in numbers than mine, or crime, or general fiction, eh?
Jonathan and Nancy are our most dedicated poetry reviewers aren’t they, so nice to see them both popping up here. I really feel I need to read Eileen Chong.
I greatly enjoyed your round-up. I’ve been tempted by the Lily Brett so was glad to see Brona’s review. And, I think The tall man is an excellent, and still relevant read.
Don’t know how I missed your comment Sue, my apologies. It seems even the light numbers here are getting lighter but at least it allows me to look at each book that’s submitted and learn something!
I hope you don’t mind the cheeky “borrowing” I did from you in my latest wrap-up (coming Monday), you’d just covered it perfectly
No worries Tegan … and of course not re any “borrowing”, we are a team! I look forward to your wrap up to see what you mean!
Great wrap up, and this might be the first time I’ve been included in the AWW non fiction round up, so thank you Tegan 🙂
I couldn’t believe this was true, Tracey! So I went and had a look and you were included in a few from 2020 after I took over but you’re right that it’s the first one for this year. I certainly think of you as being prolific 😃
Thanks so much for the kind words Tegan, and loved that you had to go and check, LOL!!! You’ve inspired me to go back to my 2020 Challenge list and turns out I read 8 non fiction books in the AWW Challenge last year. Wow, I didn’t realise it was that many.
This year so far, I’ve only read one non fiction title for the AWW Challenge and you featured it above 🙂 Making a mental note now to get to some more on my TBR. Thanks!