#AWW2016 Review – Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko

Mullumbimby

 

“Circles protect you, if you let them, girl. But you gotta let ’em. Gotta not get in their way.”

After a divorce, Jo has enough cash to go halves in 20 acres of land with her brother, land that is located in the valley where her Indigenous ancestors once lived. She sets about rebuilding her life: raising a thirteen year old daughter alone, and working at the local cemetery mowing lawns and trimming shrubs.

“Spend enough time among the silent majority, Jo discovered, and you found yourself worrying less about tomorrow, and more about today. There are so many tomorrows, after all. How could a person keep track of them all?”

She recalls conversations from her Auntie, who tried to teach her the ways of the land and the spirits, and particularly of dadirri, a way of deep listening. But just as things seem to be falling into place for her, who should turn up but a hot, dark-skinned, dreadlocked fellow by the name of Twoboy. The attraction is mutual, and Jo learns that Twoboy has put in a native title claim for the land along the valley where her home is. Though Twoboy grew up in Queensland his great-grandfather  belonged to the Bundjalung nation, the Valley where Jo’s property is located. The trouble is, Twoboy has competition from local Indigenous folk who did grow up in the area (though their ancestors were from other Aboriginal nations), and who are doing everything in their power to block Twoboy’s claims.

This was such a beautiful story about love, and triumph over adversity, and finding help in the most unexpected of places.

A Novel’s Research

Some time ago I published the first of what I intended to be a short series on the writing of my novel. That post was ‘A Novel’s Inspiration‘ and here, finally, is post #2 – a brief account of the research that went into this novel.

First of all there were the bush walks – one of which inspired the story, the others which helped me with setting:

 

Then there was the reading, of which this pile accounts about 3/4 of the books I own, and not the many I borrowed from the library,

research books

nor the countless articles I read online, nor the primary sources I found – mostly through Trove – such as this letter to the Colonial Times Newspaper – printed 26 Feb 1830*

invaded 'a settler'

 

And I can’t forget the practical experiences: such as tanning – my character Elspeth tans a kangaroo skin, thought it might be a bit big to start with so I went with something a bit smaller – a wallaby, (and if you’re wondering – I followed the instructions on this site, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out for a first attempt).

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Which leads me to the Bush Foods Workshop led by two Indigenous Tasmanian women, where I learnt that bracken fern is good for jack-jumper bites, and crushed wattle seed smells like coffee, and the fruit of the pigface tastes a little like a salty fig while the leaves can be used in the same way we would use aloe vera (among many many other things). Most exciting was learning there are several species of edible natives in my backyard – which I’d looked at only weeks earlier and wondered ‘Can I eat that?’ Unfortunately by the time I learnt I could eat them it was too late – the goats had got to them first. Hopefully the goats didn’t completely destroy them, and they’ll grow back next year (fingers crossed!).

 

 

* For those trying to read this letter:

Mr Editor – Your desire for information respecting the Aborigines has induced me to state what I conceive to be a proper view of the matter. In our neighbourhood every day affords from proof of their determination to destroy, and their declaration to war with the whites. Whenever an opportunity presents itself they have invaded our district in almost every direction, during the last eight months, with considerable success as respects their hostile attacks, particularly in taking the lives of several individuals, and in having accomplished the ruin of whole families.

 

It is almost impossible for me to fathom how someone who had been living somewhere for such a short time can accuse the original inhabitants of ‘invading’ the district…

#AWW2016 Review -‘Meet Marly’ and ‘Marly’s Business’ by Alice Pung

Meet Marly

I’m reviewing something a little different this week.

Meet Marly, and Marly’s Business, by Alice Pung, are middle-grade fiction (actually, I noticed on the publisher’s website they are listed as ‘historical’ fiction – hmm… I realise 1983 was in the past, but ‘historical’? I was around in 1983… makes me feel ancient!)

These two books are the first in a series of four, belonging to the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series from Penguin Random House Australia. They follow the life of 10 year old Marly, a refugee from Vietnam, and the struggles she has in trying to fit in at school, when home life is so different to that of her class mates.
Marly's BusinessMy daughter received the first three of these books for her birthday (the third is ‘Marly and the Goat’ and I see the fourth: Marly walks on the Moon is due out at the end of this month – what perfect timing!), and every night we’ve been reading half a chapter or so each (except last night – last night we were so keen to find out what happened in ‘Marly’s Business’ we read the entire last half of the book!)

It’s been a great way to give my daughter not only an example of another culture, but also discuss the differences between growing up now and growing up 30 years ago.

These books are a great read, and certainly have kept me entertained as we work our way through the series. Highly recommended – especially if you have children around that age you can read them with! 🙂

 

#AWW2016 Round-up (Happy Mother’s Day!)

First up – Happy Mother’s Day!! I hope you all get as spoiled as I did – breakfast and hot chocolate in bed, along with a wonderful home-made card and a bag of home made gifts -perfect!

Just a short post this week.

AWW2016

In my first post of the year I wrote about how I’d signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2016. My goal was to read 6 books by Australian Women Writers this year – at least half of which were by Indigenous Authors.

I’m really pleased to say that 1/3 of the way through the year and I have already acheived that goal. My reviews were:

By Indigenous Authors:

And Non-Indigenous Authors:

So I’ve extended my goal a little, with the hope to read and review another 6 books by Australian Women Writers,  with at least three by Indigenous authors, before the end of the year.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews, and if you have any recommendations for great Aussie authors/books, please let me know in the comments. 🙂

#AWW2016 Review – Bantam by Terry Whitebeach

Bantam

Mick is an 18 year old Indigenous man living in the small town of Bantam. He’s just moved out of home and is struggling to find work, a decent place to live, and a girlfriend.

I’ve never read anything quite like this book. Written for those “whose reading skills are dodgy, or even absent, but whose hopes and dreams are as significant as everybody else’s and whose story is just as worth telling” Terry’s writing style is light-heartened, easy to read and enjoyable, and there were lots of things that gave me a chuckle:

“Back in the ute, they bump along the track to visit Rob, a spun-out Vietnam vet who lives up here on the hill. Rob’s been building a crazy house out of booze bottles and concrete and galvanised iron for the last twenty years.

He’s a head case. Drinks himself legless every night. Has to, he reckons, so he doesn’t run out of building materials.”

But the novel doesn’t shy away from the deeper issues facing Indigenous people, such as youth suicide, deaths in custody, discrimination and domestic violence.

Though Mick and his mates go through all the ups and downs of life out on their own; the struggles with girlfriends, finding a place to live, and the adventures of small town life -the story ends in a good place for Mick.

“He imagines for a moment he’s going to say something special, something big, like poetry, or the Bible, but the words don’t come. Somehow it doesn’t matter. They’re there, deep in his belly, and on the wind and in the air and glinting on the scales of the salmon.”