22 October, 2012

A book Australians should read

I have this pile of books threatening to topple onto my laptop (well small exaggeration). They are destined to be blogged about, but life has been so hectic recently that I just haven't gotten around to it.

Today's a new start. 
  1. I've gone to the gym for almost the first time in 3 1/2 months and it feels good. It is nice to not only do that, but get back into my former routine (which includes picking up some needed items from various stores on the way home).
  2. I had morning tea (or "coffee") with a friend, we've been wanting to catch up ever since school began, and that's nearly two months ago now! So, finally, we grabbed some time together. We were missing a couple of other ladies who usually join us, but, it was good even so, to meet and share how things have been for us (this is one of those, "how are you really" relationships).
  3. I've managed to get some important emails away, ones that have been waiting for a while. It's nice to cross those off my list.
  4. And I'm going to get the first of these books off my "To blog on" list.
My Place by Sally Morgan

Is one of those Australian books that I mentioned here. I bought it in a second-hand book store with the intention of hopefully donating it to the CAJ library, intending to help them get a more international biographical section going. (Here was my original post about the lack of non-American books at CAJ.)

My Place is described as "An Australian Classic". That kind of label usually makes me run the other way. I'm not really into "classics". But I had a vague memory that this author is Aboriginal and I was curious to read about her life. 

I'm so glad I took the chance on it. It IS a classic in the best way. One that every Australian should read.

It not only tells of the author's upbringing in Perth in the 50s and 60s, it tells some of the story of her uncle, mum, and grandmother. 

I've never read anything about what it was like for Aboriginals to live in Australia. I've read plenty of literature by or about African Americans. Part of that is mostly only having access to an American library in recent years. But a big part of it is that it isn't popular in mainstream Australia to talk about this topic. It certainly wasn't a part of my education. I don't know how many Aboriginals have penned their own stories, but I haven't come across them. From what I read in the book, many Aboriginals tend to be reluctant to tell their stories. That they have many secrets that they'd rather not reveal to the world. They also are a culture that tend to have oral histories, rather than written history.

But, back to the book. It was shocking. It was shocking to see how the people in the story were treated by white people. Like possessions and slaves. The family in this story suffered so much that they deliberately hid their genetic history from their kids (including the author). It was only due to the persistence of the author that the children discovered their Aboriginal history in their early adult years (there is a considerable mixing in of "white" blood in the family, so their heritage isn't immediately obvious to observers).

The story is well written and it thoroughly took me in. I needed to get to the end of it. 

Again I say, all Australian should read this. At school we're taught about the explorers, about the wars, about the colonies, about Federation etc. But we're not taught about the hidden people, the indigenous Australians who live among us. We need to know this.


Helen said...

I read it a few years ago. I found it exactly as you did.

Sarah said...

I read it a couple of years ago. It's definitely not a book you can easily forget. I worked out my mum went to the same high school in Perth as Sally at the same time, but they were a couple of years apart. I asked her if she knew Sally but she didn't.