Kicking off my Aussies Rule Challenge

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(Please note this post references Aboriginal people who are deceased.)

As I’ve been on leave from work this week I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a head start on my reads for the Aussie Rules Challenge.

My first pick was for prompt 6 (featuring a character/person with a chronic illness or disability).

I picked up Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain last year as it was shortlisted for the Stella awards. I discovered that she had tragically passed away from a brain tumour (the same affliction suffered one of her characters). I spotted this book on Litsy a few weeks ago and luckily my library had it available.

In The Museum of Words, Blain tells her own story after the writing of Between a Wolf and a Dog. She had been dealing with her mother’s (author Anne Deveson) descent into Alzheimers and the stress that comes with having an unwell, aging parent who is in denial about their own weaknesses, when her close friend and mentor (author Rosie Scott) was diagnosed with a brain tumour in the speech centre of her brain. Not long afterwards, Blain suffers a seizure which leads to her own diagnosis and battle with a brain tumour attacking her speech centre. This is an incredibly sad but beautifully written memoir of what it is like to see death coming and to have illness threaten to take away the things you value most.

My second read for the challenge is Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight by Dr Anita Heiss. This is for prompt 5 – a nonfiction book by an Aboriginal author. Heiss explores what it means to be an Aboriginal writer, how white structures of language and book editing can be used to hinder the Aboriginal voice. She looks at how little support is available for our emerging Aboriginal writers, and also discusses that at the time, the academic world of Aboriginal writing was mostly dominated by white men. Heiss explores her own experiences and those of her peers, and then discusses the different structures in place for the First Nations people of Canada and the Maori people in New Zealand. There are also extensive lists of Aboriginal, First Nations and Maori literature up until the time of publication provided as appendices.

I learnt so much from this book, and it saddens me to think that it is still so very relevant although it was published in 2003. Australia should be doing better.

I’ve also been spending some time getting together a bunch of books that I want to read for the first prompt. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reading multiple books for each of the prompts, and I’ve been very happy with how much material I’ve been able to access through my local library.

One of the books I definitely want to read is Charles Perkin’s autobiography A Bastard Like Me. I was born in the early 70s and grew up in the 80s, and two of the Aboriginal people I remember most admiring during that time are Charles Perkins and Oodgeroo Noonuccal (whose biography is also in my pile.) I have found it relatively difficult to locate a copy of A Bastard Like Me. It’s currently unavailable on my usual book purchasing sources, my usual second-hand purchasing sources also don’t have it, and neither do the local libraries. I did manage to locate a copy at the State Library and have requested it (which is the first time I’ve tried that process, so I’ll let you know how it goes).

Have you started selecting books or reading for the challenge? Let me know what you’re going to read!

Aussies Rule Challenge – some quick hints and prompts 1 and 2

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(Please note this post references Aboriginal people who are deceased.)

Thank you everyone who has given me feedback about the Aussies Rule Challenge. It’s very gratifying to see people excited about it and wanting to actively increase their Aussie reading.

A couple of hints first – as with most challenges, this one has been designed so you can use one book to cross off two or more prompts. Feel free to challenge yourself to find a unique book for each prompt if you wish, but it’s not a requirement.

The second hint is to get yourself acquainted with Dr Anita Heiss’s Black Book Challenge lists. You will find them invaluable for the Indiginous prompts on the list. You can find them here, here and here. There are plenty of other lists on the interwebs and in Goodreads which will help you with the prompts. If you get stuck, let me know!

Also the state prompts for 8 and 9 will (obviously) differ for everyone. Rather than talk about those prompts seperately, I’ll include states on each of the books that I mention to make life a bit easier.

Everything I suggest for the prompts are exactly that – suggestions! I am very keen to see your lists and to hear any suggestions you may have.

Onwards!

1. A biography about or a memoir by an Aboriginal Australian:

  • Charles Perkins – A Bastard Like Me (NT/NSW)
  • Bill Dodd – Broken Dreams (Qld)
  • Anita Heiss – Am I Black Enough for You? (NSW)
  • Rita and Jackie Huggins – Aunty Rita (Qld)
  • Ruby Langford Ginibi – Don’t Take Your Love to Town (NSW)
  • Stan Grant – The Tears of Strangers (NSW)
  • Peter Read – Charles Perkins: A Biography (NT/NSW)
  • Sally Morgan – My Place (WA)
  • Kathleen Cochrane – Oodgeroo (Qld)
  • Monty Walgar – Jinangga (WA)

2. An Aussie classic by a woman:

  • Miles Franklin – My Brilliant Career (NSW)
  • Henry Handel Richarson – The Getting of Wisdom (Vic)
  • Colleen McCulloch – The Thorn Birds (NSW)
  • Joan Lindsay – Picnic at Hanging Rock (Vic)
  • Germaine Greer – The Female Eunuch (Vic)
  • Ruth Park – The Harp in the South (NSW)
  • Ethel Turner – Seven Little Australians (NSW)
  • Melina Marchetta – Looking for Alibrandi (NSW)
  • Christina Stead – The Man Who Loved Women (NSW)
  • Jeanie Gunn – We of the Never Never (NT)
  • Helen Garner – Monkey Grip (Vic)
  • Kate Grenville – The Seret River (NSW)
  • Jessica Anderson – Tirra Lirra by the River (NSW)
  • Thea Astley – Coda (NSW)

What do you think of these? Are there any you haven’t heard of or don’t agree with?

Doddy’s Top 5 (ish)s of 2017

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I read a lot of amazing books in 2017. Here are some of my Top 5s by genre/category. Some of them I’m not going to be able to whittle down to 5 – hence the “ish”. #Soznotsoz.

Memoirs/Biographies

  1. Reckoning by Magda Szubanski – heart shattering tale of one of Australia’s favourite comedians, her relationship with her parents and their parts in the WW2 resistance in Poland, her own struggle with her sexuality and coming out.
  2. Spectacles by Sue Perkins – I had no real idea who Sue Perkins was when I read this, but I have never laughed out loud so hard at a book before.
  3. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan – This book is terrifying. Cahalan contracted a rare autoimmune disease which affected her brain. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic and put into a facility. Without the insistence of her parents and the assistance of the doctor who finally diagnosed her, she would probably still be there.
  4. In The Darkroom by Susan Faludi – after many years of estrangement, Faludi’s father, who she remembers from her childhood as being violent and awful, contacts her to let her know that he has had a gender reassignment. This is Faludi’s attempt to uncover the person that her father is now.
  5. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood – Lockwood’s father is a catholic priest. As he started out as a Lutheran priest he was allowed to convert and take his family with him, as long as none of them were psychopaths. I would recommend this one on audio (it’s read by Lockwood). It was nothing what I expected and I really enjoyed it.
  6. The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke – another memoir by a poet, Clarke recounts what it was like growing up black in very white suburban Sydney in the 80s and 90s.
  7. The Bitter Life of Bozena Nemcova by Kelcey Parker Ervick – I read this one to satisfy the Micropress requirement for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and I’m so glad I did. It’s not your usual biography, and is instead written more like poetry, using excerpts from letters to and from Nemcova and from her works. (Nemcova is on the Czech currency, and is renowned for her fairy tales). Beautifully written.

Literary Fiction

  1. The Sellout by Paul Beatty – This book was amazing – funny, though-provoking, absolutely scathing and so very relevant.
  2. The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield – This is an older book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a wonderfully told tale of books, siblings and family secrets.
  3. Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko – Set in and around the town of the same name, this is a gorgeous story about Jo, who has left her life as an academic to buy a property on her country. Her teenage daughter is less than impressed. Things become more complicated wqhen a handsome stranger comes to town. This is a lovely exploration of the relationship between Aboriginal people and county, and it opened my eyes to the difficulties of claiming Native Title.
  4. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio – I loved the crap out of this book. It made my inner Shakespeare nerd very happy. I loved the style used to tell the story and the liberal scattering of quotes throughout.
  5. Black British by Hebe de Souza – de Souza recounts the life of Indians so anglicised by English rule that they are completely estranged from the local culture, and don’t even speak the language. When the English leave the country, they also have no real choice but to leave as they are essentially strangers in their own country. Based on de Souza’s own life, this was a fascinating read.

YA

  1. Breathing Underwater by Sophie Hardcastle – This book was a punch to the feels. Grace and Ben are twins, and Grace has always felt second to Ben’s natural ability in everything – she is the moon to his sun. When Ben dies suddenly and tragically, Grace goes off the rails. This book is beautifully written, realistic and incredibly powerful. Have tissues on hand.
  2. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde – This Book gave me loads of happy feels! A really sweet tale about three friends who make their dream trip to a convention in the US (one of the three is a Youtuber who has a fan base). The diverse characters are wonderful.
  3. Dreadnought/Sovereign by April Daniels – Okay, I’m cheating a little with this one. Dreadnought and Sovereign make up the Nemesis duology. Dreadnought starts with Danny who is transgender, but not yet out of the closet, sitting behind a chemist painting his nails with polish he has just bought. Out of the sky falls the hero Dreadnought who is dying, and passes his powers on to Danny. Along with a bunch of superpowers, Danny also receives his ideal body. But that only creates more problems for her.
  4. The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis – The swimmer, the rebel and the nerd, all orbited around Isaac. But now Isaac is gone, who are they now? This is a wonderful exploration of both grief and identity.
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – I can’t imagine a YA top anything without this book on it. Starr and her friend Khalifa are pulled over by a policeman and Starr witnesses his fatal shooting. This book is raw, powerful and angry. For someone like me who lives outside the US, it gives a really eye opening account as to what happens in these communities where violence occurs and the impact of the trauma. Heartbreaking.

Science Fiction

  1. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon – I’ve heard this book described as “The Antebellum South on a space ship” and that seems pretty apt. Aster lives in the slums and is not really understood by those around her – and has no desire to be. She is happy to go about her business. She works in the fields like the others, but she is also a gifted healer. She is trying to unravel the meaning behind her mother’s old journals discovering much more than she was expecting. This book is pretty brutal at times, but it’s just so good.
  2. Ninefox Gambit/ The Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee – A disgraced general is given a last chance to redeem herself, but this involves using the undead Shuos Jedao, who has never lost a battle, but who is also a bit insane. I have all the flailing Muppet arms for this series. There’s gender-bending, there’s incredible brutality and graphic violence, but there’s also a sense of hope. I have no more words – queue the Muppet arms again.
  3. The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden – Sorry folks, more Muppet arms for this one. There’s so much to this story. A little girl finds a new friend who shows her that she’s a powerful demigoddess. There is another demigoddess who isn’t doing so great. – she works in a nail salon at the moment, but she has plans. There are two friends who try the new hallucinogen doing the rounds – they end up transforming into sea creatures and having fabulous sex. Throw in a robot uprising and we have a wild ride!
  4. John Scalzi (Collapsing Empire, Redshirts) More cheating and I’m not even sorry. I don’t know why it took me so long to read Scalzi, but I’m so happy I did. Redshirts is a tonne of fun (if you’re a Star Trek fan then you should get an idea of the story just from the title) and Collapsing Empire is a great series starter. The new Empress is having a rough time – not only has her father just died, but her new office is full of really valuable antique shit and but someone keeps trying to blow her up. This book has some great strong female characters and is laugh out loud funny. Get on it!
  5. Synners by Pat Cadigan – This book was written back in the 90s, and I wish I had read it then as it would have blown my tiny mind. Foreshadowing computer networking and viruses by many years, Cadigan a dark world where humanity and technology are becoming more and more entwined, which is fine until something goes badly wrong in interface between humans and the technology. A) Never get the implants, you know it’s going to end badly; b) it makes me really mad that you never hear Cadigan’s name when people are talking about cyber punk. (One of my all time favourite books is her Fools, also from the 90s. Find this book, read it, and remember that it’s nearly 30 years old.

Enough rambling from me. What were your favourite reads from 2017? What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Read on!

The Aussies Rule Reading Challenge 2018

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Hi everyone! Sorry I’ve been in absentia – work has been completely insane.

I now have a break, just in time to get my crap together for the new year. One of the things I’ve taken up in 2017 is bullet journalling – nothing fancy like you will see if you search Pinterest but it’s keeping me organised which is great.

So this morning I was organising my reading challenges for the new year into my bujo so I could track them – I’m going to be doing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and the Reading Women challenge this year, as well as continuing my Reading Around the World kick. I was a little irritated at how US centric the challenges were – which is a dumb reaction. The challenges are put together by people in the US (mostly) so of course they are focussed there. I had only been talking to a Litsy friend (hi marchpane!) a couple of weeks ago who mentioned she was wanting to read more from the Aussie market, which I’ve been trying to do myself as well this year.

So with full credit to Rachel Manwill from Book Riot especially, and credit also the the Reading Women, I would like to present to you the Aussies Rule Reading Challenge.

This list is designed to help you to move outside your comfort zone when choosing Aussie books.

1. A biography about or a memoir by an Aboriginal Australian.

2. An Aussie classic by a woman.

3. A book about an Aussie true crime or tragedy.

4. A mystery or thriller by a female writer.

5. A non-fiction book by an Aboriginal author.

6. A book which features a character with a chronic illness or disability (can be non-Fiction).

7. A classic by an Aboriginal author.

8. A book from your home state.

9. A book from a state you haven’t visited.

10. A recent book about colonisation/white ‘exploration’. (Can be Fiction)

11. A book that features Aboriginal spirituality (by an Aboriginal author).

12. A book by an Aussie of colour who is an immigrant or refugee.

13. A book by an Aussie of colour who is not Aboriginal and was born in Australia.

14. A book of poetry released in the last 10 years.

15. A YA book with LGBT+ representation (extra points for #ownvoices).

16. A book published by a University press.

17. A book by an LGBT+ author (bonus points if also a person of colour).

18. Some Aussie sci-fi.

19. An Aussie debut novel.

20. An Aussie author writing about a different country or culture.

21. A book set in the outback or a small country town.

22. A winner of the David Unaipon Award.

23. A book by an Aussie NY Times Bestselling author.

24. A book that was shortlisted for the Stellas, the Ned Kellys, or the Miles Franklin award.

What do you think of my list? If you have any questions or want to discuss what books will fit each category, drop me a note in the comments.

Do you feel like joining me? Use #aussiesrule2018 if you do!

Have a safe and Happy New Year. I hope 2018 is totally awesome to you.

Yoon Ha Lee’s essay (from Book Smugglers)

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Hi everyone!

In my last post about sci fi I mentioned Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent book Ninefox Gambit. I thought you might be interested to read this article he produced for the Book Smuggler’s website about writing and being a trans person.

http://thebooksmugglers.com/2016/06/sff-in-conversation-yoon-ha-lee-on-being-trans.html

(I’m making my way through the next in the series, Raven Stratagem, which is also excellent!)