For August there was:
6 Books Reviewed (2 poetry)
The most prolific reviewer was: Brona at Brona’s Books 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 some of the books discussed below mention racism/colonialism, sexual assault, and mental illness. There is no description or imagery relating to these topics.
As the only reviewer this month with more than one book reviewed, let’s begin with Brona at Brona’s Books poetry reviews. These were the only poetry titles for the month. First reviewed was Louise Crisp’s Yuiquimbiang (2019) which is the first ever review of this title in the database. An ecopoetic project, this title endeavours to develop a form that integrates political essay and environmental poetics: an endeavour that evolved out of the author’s double life as a poet and environmental activist. Brona writes: “I found Crisp’s words mesmerising, haunting and illuminating. Her poems were written with such heart and care, that the urge to protect and honour and somehow do better, would wash over me every time I picked up the book.” With an introduction by Bruce Pascoe and a deep connection to country that demands we actively consider our environment, this might be one we’ve missed and more of us need to place on our to-be-read list!
Second up is Dropbear (2021) by Evelyn Araluen which is added for only the second time (which surprises me as the waiting list for my local library was epic, and then I couldn’t even collect it because of covid!). This is a collection that mixes verse and essay to interrogate settler history and consider the redemptive hope of a decolonial future. Named after the fictional deadly koala-like bear, Brona says that: “Like the mythological drop bear that attacks unsuspecting tourists, Araluen’s poems attack popular culture and Australiana head on. She embraces the dangerous, unpredictable nature that imbues the myth of the drop bear as her own, even as she deconstructs it and shows it up for what it really is.” A wonderful review that touches on the inherent contradictions and difficulties in what Araluen is confronting, I can’t help quoting a little more because I’m in awe of Brona’s passage that says: “Truth-telling requires vigilance. Facing the past can be exhausting and demoralising. It can take a personal toll… Yet Araluen persists.There is a sense that this time in history, is the right time for such persistence. Confronting the realities of our colonial heritage is not only a national imperative, but something that fits into the much larger world-wide movement to acknowledge that black lives matter as much as white lives. For all our sakes, I hope she persists.”
This month also brings us two fascinating new-release collections of essays. Theresa at Theresa Smith Writes read Sarah Walker’s The First Time I Thought I Was Dying (2021). In this book Walker wrestles with the awkward spaces where anatomy meets society and explores our unruly bodies by asking how we might learn to embrace our own chaos. Theresa writes: “Dealing with many topics that include grief, self image, self harm, mental illness, family relations, sex, fear, theatre, photography, death, illness, bodily functions, art, and honestly, so much more. Each essay is themed but also covers an array of topics, plus, each one is prefaced with a photo that aligns with the theme at hand – the author is a photographer, so I liked this blending of artistic mediums… One might go so far as to say that the collection as a whole is its own work of art. A stunning debut that I highly recommend.”
Meanwhile Jennifer Cameron-smith at Goodreads reviewed Vanessa Berry’s Gentle and Fierce (2021). Tracing Berry’s interactions with animals and drawing insights from them, this is a book that considers how these encounters provide meaningful connections at a time when the world we share with animals is threatened by environmental destruction. The essays are also accompanied by illustrations which reflect her background as an artist and zine maker. Inviting “the reader into a world of reflection,” Jennifer writes, “I enjoyed these essays and the accompanying illustrations. I enjoyed them for themselves and for the starting point they provided for my own memories.”
Janine at The Resident Judge of Port Phillip took the occasion of its 25th anniversary (last year) to take a retrospective look at Helen Garner’s The First Stone: Some Questions of Sex and Power. The new edition was published in 2020 expanding on the original from 1995 with a new forward and added content by way of speeches and interviews. Generally considered controversial, especially among different iterations of feminists, the book centres on the case of the Master of Ormond College at Melbourne University who was charged with indecent assault by two female students. Having also read it in the 90s Janine reflects that: “Reading it 25 years later, I found myself wincing at her venom against the feminist supporters of the two women, and her blithe dismissal of the power imbalance between the Master of Ormond College and two students.” I highly recommend reading the review in full, as Janine positions her personal responses to the book within the contradictions and nuances of power and consent by following the above statement with paragraphs that begin with “nevertheless,” “but,” and “however”. In a post-‘me too’ world, she wonders “There might not be many who would spring to the Master of Ormond College’s defence today – would Garner? (I don’t know). In that regard, the book has dated badly. But the questions of proportionality, agency/victimhood, generational change, the law, class and feminism are just as pertinent – if not more pertinent – today.”
On a very different note, Amanda at Mrs B’s Book Reviews interviewed author Rebekah Campbell about her new book 138 Dates: The True Story of One Woman’s Search for Everything (2021). It is a story of finding love and life as a female entrepreneur, and the reflections that come from it both personal and social. Giving great insight to the production of this book, we learn things directly from the author such as: “the most prevalent themes and issues surround self-discovery, learning to be your authentic self and recognising the negative voices in your head, when to listen to these and when to tell them to shut up.”
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!
- Brona — at Brona’s Books
- Jennifer Cameron-smith — here at Goodreads
- Theresa Smith — at Theresa Smith Writes
- Janine Rizzetti — at The Resident Judge of Port Phillip
- Amanda Barrett — at Mrs B’s Book Reviews
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!
Thanks for the inclusion of my review!
Thank you Tegan for being such an enthusiastic supporter of my poetry posts. They are the posts I struggle to write the most.
Such an enjoyable roundup as usual Tegan. I love your extended quote from Brona’s review of Dropbear. Well spotted. I also greatly enjoy essay collections so it was great to see two reviewed this month. So much to read.
And, like you I enjoyed Janine’s post on The first stone. I’ve often thought about re-reading it so it was great to see that she has. Really interesting to see what she had to say about how it reads now given what has happened in the interim.