Dec. 23rd, 2012

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Kim Scott, Iris Woods and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, Mamang (2011)

This is a University of Western Australia Press picture book. It represents a story originally told by Freddie Winmer to a linguist in the 1930s, found, workshopped with his Noongar descendants and presented as a picture book.

I edited the story as it involved a man taking a ride inside a whale. In my version he made it go faster by shouting GO! GO! rather than by poking it with a spear.

Also, it was a nice change of pace as so many collections are of stories from the centre and the north west. As colonisation started in the south east, it's nice to have some stories from the bottom part of the continent where colonisation was experienced earlier and differently.
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This is bit of a placeholder of a post - I read it, I liked it.

It seemed that the first couple of chapters on African-American art prior to 1900 are different in tone to the later chapters on modern art.

The beginning chapters are the kind of art history which trace forgotten and overlooked artists. My favourite is definitely Dave the Potter who threw large, obviously pretty strong pots (50 have survived). He wrote his own poetry on each jar. 'Great and Noble jar/ Hold sheep, goat, or bear, May 13 1859, Dave'.

The later chapters deal with developments since 1900, and the constant reworkings of the same debate: which is more important, broader artistic traditions or identity as an African-American?
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I chose this picture book randomly from the shelf because I was looking for a book to encourage eating vegetables. And then, bonus!, it is eligible for this challenge.

It does all the things a book for a picky preschool eater is meant to. It has colourful foods and counting and games and at the end there is a recipe. Pearl looked at the recipe and said NO SOUP! so she is perhaps pickier than the intended reader.
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I found this book on Anita Heiss’ list of the top 100 Aboriginal books -

I would strongly disagree that it belonged there.

It is a reimagining of the Myall Creek Massacre, with a cast of characters around a German Lutheran mission. And it is stunningly boring.

This is partly a result of the prose style which could most charitably be described as Hemingwayesque in that it is sparse and favours short sentences. Also, the characterisation is kind of Hemingwayesque, in that it is non-existent. And the women are kind of Hemingwayesque, in that they are Madonna/whores.

So, I like neither the style nor the characters.

And I wasn’t that keen on the plot either, because, frankly, I don’t think that the Myall Creek massacre needs to be reimagined. It’s like James Cameron doing the Titanic but instead of telling us the gripping and fascinating stories of the real people, he invented Jack and Rose and their mundane love affaire.

McLaren decided that instead of telling us the incredibly tragic story of the Myall Creek massacre, he would... write short, sparse sentences about a German Lutheran missionary raping women and setting up the Aboriginal people as the rapist/murderers until the white population snap and massacre the local tribe. It’s not like he had to call it Myall Creek. There were plenty of other massacres, stretching back to the beginning of the colony and forward into the twentieth century. It’s just that this one was well documented because the accused were taken to court and some of them eventually executed.

All in all, no thumbs up for plot, characters or style.


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