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!

Review: Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms

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Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms is a fictional retelling of the Cowra Breakout – on August 5 1944 approximately 1000 Japanese prisoners of war attempted to break out from the No 12 prison camp. This resulted in hundreds of deaths, both from guns of the Australian soldiers and at the hands of the Japanese prisoners themselves as many killed themselves and others to put an end to the ongoing shame of their situation.


In this book Anita Heiss focuses on a fictional situation – Hiroshi escapes from the camp and hides in the local Aboriginal mission of Erambie. He is discovered by Banjo Williams, who talks his extended family into giving Hiroshima refuge and hiding him from the white mission manager and the rest of the mission’s population. Banjo’s 17 year old daughter is entrusted with taking Hiroshi the little food they can spare. 

Hiroshi and Mary share their cultures and eventually their hearts, but their love is not just dangerous, it’s illegal and there is no chance they will have a happy ending.

Heiss doesn’t disappoint with this sad story of life on the mission during the war, and the falling in love of two people from vastly different backgrounds. It is awful to note that the Aboriginal people on the mission were less well treated than the prisoners of war, who were treated according to the Geneva convention. Think about that for a moment. Also consider that this time is still within living memory.

As the two love birds share more information with each other, we are also treated to and accessible discussion of the Aborigines Protection Act, which rules Aboriginal life and treatment at this point in history. I was not aware of this piece of legislation and the conditions that went with it. There is also a discussion of Aboriginal soldiers who participated in the First World War and their  ill treatment which is another sad reflection on the history of this country.

Apart from the central story, there is a wide cast of characters who I really enjoyed getting to know and add wonderful layers to the story.  Marj the gossip was so delightfully obnoxious I couldn’t help but love her.

Mary was also delightful, and while her story was sad, it wasn’t without hope.

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms is both a lovely and an important read. 

5 out of 5 reasons to #change the date.

Dr Anita Heiss is currently visiting bookshops around the country to talk about this one. If you are in Brisbane, she will be at Avid Reader on Feb 5.

Reading Around the World – Prep Phase

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I’m getting pretty excited about my Reading Around the World journey.

I’m still doing a bunch of research to find authors to read from every country – you can see how I’m going on the dedicated page. 

I’ve made a few decisions about how I’m going to accumulate the books. Normally I listen to audiobooks, or read on my kindle. I’ve decided though that I want actual copies of the books I’m using for this project. This may not always be possible, but that is what I will try for in the first instance. I think I may also need to change my mission statement to be “at least one” book from every country in the world, because I’m discovering so many amazing authors!!

I’ve started the long (and expensive!) process of ordering the books in so I have somewhere to start in January.

I’m getting sucked in by a lot of these covers – isn’t the cover for Honour beautiful?

I’m looking forward to reading Anita Heiss’s book – Heiss is an Indigenous Aussie author and this is a pretty new release. Even better, she is doing a book talk at my favourite Indie book store, Avid Reader, in February. Awesome!!

As always, please feel free to leave me any recommendations for awesome reads (available in English šŸ™šŸ¼) from your part of the world in the comments.