(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!
I’m steering clear of challenges this year because I found them stressful but I do have a general goal of reading lots of diverse Aussie authors. I’ve just requested between a wolf and a dog from my library after being bombarded with recommendations to read it.
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I understand that. I think I learnt a lot about how I approach my reading life last year – themes are fine, lists of specific books are not. I hope you find some of the lists I put up helpful. I’m sure you won’t regret reading Blain. I’m only sorry that I discovered her posthumously.
I loved Between a Wolf and a Dog too (I actual thought it should have won the Stellas!) Was the Museum of Words published posthumously?
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Hey Bron! Museum of Words was indeed published posthumously. Her partner has written a preface which includes info about the editing process and the format (there are a number of photos included).