Two books that I have recently finished were books that were either mentioned on the programme called Books That Made Us on the ABC television station or they were short listed for a particular literary prize. The ABC series is no longer available to view but you can see a list of the books here.
The first one is Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko set in modern day Australia. Winner of Miles Franklin Literary Award.
“Too much lip, her old problem from way back. And the older she got, the harder it seemed to get to swallow her opinions. The avalanche of bullshit in the world would drown her if she let it; the least she could do was raise her voice in anger.”
“Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things – her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley.
Kerry plans to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.” ( from the book blurb)
Cass Moriarty has written an excellent review on Goodreads, part of which I include here as it sums up for me so much of what was being said in this novel.
“This book is good. Very good. It is an unflinching, raw and honest exploration of one modern-day (fictional) Aboriginal family, with all its flaws and problems. But it is also a book that offers important cultural and historical insights into intergenerational trauma and abuse. It is a book that doesn’t waste time asking questions such as why and how, but instead jumps straight in and provides the answers by depicting the effects of history. Yes, I’m talking about colonisation (or invasion) and massacres, about slavery and stolen land and stolen children, about one group of people attempting to systematically crush the spirit of another. For while this story is ostensibly about Kerry Salter and her family, on a deeper level it is about so much more.”
This is her closing statement:
“As a non-indigenous reader, I can’t pretend to understand the pain that has birthed this book, but what I can do is open my ears and listen. Look and listen. And try to learn something.”
This book is a definite must read.
The second book is Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss set in Australia in the latter half of the 1800s. The back cover gives the English title River of Dreams.
The powerful Murrumbidgee River surges through town leaving death and destruction in its wake. It is a stark reminder that while the river can give life, it can just as easily take it away.
Wagadhaany is one of the lucky ones. She survives. But is her life now better than the fate she escaped? Forced to move away from her miyagan, she walks through each day with no trace of dance in her step, her broken heart forever calling her back home to Gundagai.
When she meets Wiradyuri stockman Yindyamarra, Wagadhaany’s heart slowly begins to heal. But still, she dreams of a better life, away from the degradation of being owned. She longs to set out along the river of her ancestors, in search of lost family and country. Can she find the courage to defy the White man’s law? And if she does, will it bring hope … or heartache?
Set on timeless Wiradyuri country, where the life-giving waters of the rivers can make or break dreams, and based on devastating true events, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) is an epic story of love, loss and belonging.”
You can find a review of the book here.
Here is Anita Heiss talking about the novel and how she came to write it.
Two books about indigenous Australians written from different perpectives in different times. Both books are wonderful reads.