[identity profile] emma-in-oz.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] 50books_poc
Anita Heiss has set up a top 100 Australian Indigenous books. I'd read 12 of her favourite 99 books - she left the last one blank so people can add their own favourites.

See here: http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/anitas-bbc-black-book-choice-reading.html

That means there's all the more for me to discover, a veritable treasure trove.

I had intended to work through the list in order but, alas, number one is *Benang* which, judging from the first few pages, I reject as the worst kind of self consciously literary fiction. Number two (Vivienne Cleven's *Bitin' Back*) and number three (John Muk Muk Burke's *Bridge of Triangles*) are not in my local library system.... which brings me to Anita Heiss' fourth choice - Terri Janke's *Butterfly Song* (2005).

It's a young adult novel about an insecure, recent Law school graduate who goes to Cairns with her mother, rediscovers her Thursday Islander roots and saves a family heirloom. Janke uses the interesting technique of leaping about in time, showing the narrator's first experiences at university, her childhood memories, her mother's life and her grandmother's.

However, I would suggest that Janke uses this technique rather clumsily. The plot hinges on the recovery of a butterfly carved in pearl shell, held by a white family but claimed as a family momento by an Islander family. Janke shows that it absolutely belongs to the Indigenous family and was stolen from them. It's all rather black and white (pardon the pun) when most disputes about the appropriation of Indigenous culture, artifacts, knowledge or land are a lot more... well disputed. Especially as the conclusion is a court scene in which the white owner listens, agrees and hands over the expensive item. It's a very neat ending, but not one that seems in tune with human nature.

Perhaps I find this frustrating because it is a YA novel and Janke needs to wrap things up by the end. Still, it's not what I'd call a subtle novel.


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