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[personal profile] emma_in_dream
This collection of journalistic essays about life as second generation Lebanese Australians is really interesting. It would be great for a school library as the collection is accessibly written and eclectically covers a variety of topics.

My only quibble is that some of the essays are about the experiences of the authors while others are the result of interviews but the essays are not marked to show this distinction. It would be helpful if there was a header on each essay giving a very general overview of who was interviewed.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Memorial Memorial by Gary Crew, illustrations by Shaun Tan.

As this review is primarily for 50books_poc, it's going to focus on the illustrations by Shaun Tan. Having said that, the story (comments by three generations of a family on the importance of the Moreton Bay Fig that forms part of the town's war memorial, now threatened by 'progress') is stunning, and raises multiple issues/discussion points that my small group at the Hebrew Scriptures intensive I did recently had a great deal of fun discussing.

The illustrations, though - oh, the illustrations. Shaun Tan, what can you say? In this book he has a number of full-page, wordless spreads, and he makes the most of each of them. Read more... )
[identity profile] cyphomandra.livejournal.com
I borrowed all of these from the library, but they don't have a lot else in common - the first is a YA, coming of age (or responsibility) novel, set in contemporary Pakistan; the second, a literary novel that mixes general and personal histories to create various identities (in families, in cultures, in racial/ethnic groups); and the third is a satire, sharp and uncomfortable. More details follow - spoilers, definitely, for the first book, and the second two I talk about how I felt about the endings, although am hopefully vague enough about actual events.

Amjed Qamar, Beneath my mother's feet. )

Hsu-Ming Teo, Love and Vertigo. )

Colson Whitehead, Apex hides the hurt. )
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
My [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc year ends on January 31, and although I have still been reading, I've gotten slack with posting reviews. So here's an 8-book catchup post.

#40 - Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Jill Tamaki Read more... )

#41 - Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan Read more... )

#42 - Papunya School Book of History and Country by the Papunya School community Read more... )

#43 - Kampung Boy, by Lat Read more... )

#44 - Not Meeting Mr Right, by Anita Heiss Read more... )

#45 - The Wheel of Surya, by Jamila Gavin Read more... )

#46 - Swallow the Air, by Tara June Winch Read more... )

#47 - Love poems and other revolutionary actions, by Roberta (Bobbi) Sykes Read more... )
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Digger J Jones Digger J Jones by Richard J Frankland (Scholastic, 2007)

Richard Frankland is a well known and highly regarded playwright. This is his first novel: the diary of a Koori boy in 1967, with links to the community at Lake Condah, to the indigenous political organisations centred in Northcote (Melbourne) leading up to the May 27th referendum.

This book does - from my clueless white girl viewpoint - a marvelous job of explaining what was going on in 1967. Vietnam. The referendum. The sheer stupidity of the mere need for the referendum.

The emnity-into-friendship of Digger and Darcy is a highlight of the book: the way that they are forced, again and again, into each other's orbit. I love the involvement of the churches (historically accurate, thank you) in the whole thing: the Catholic church through Sister Ally, and the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship (I have to assume) through Digger's family. (I do wish I wasn't constantly wanting to call him "Dumby", though. It's the effect of having every Year Nine in my school studying Deadly, Unna? this year.)

It's at least as good as as Anita Heiss' Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talance, and it's great to see Frankland writing YA books. While I'm sure this has used a lot of Frankland's own life experience (like Digger, Frankland is a Gunditjmara man with links to Condah), I hope he goes on to write more.

(New tags: a: frankland richard)
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: Rabbit-Proof Fence
Author: Doris Pilkington
Number of Pages: 137 pages
My Rating: 4/5

This is the true story of how three girls, Molly, Daisy, and Gracie, escaped from a residential school designed to turn half-white Aboriginal children into servants for white families and walked 1600 km back to their home.

It's a good story and I enjoyed learning more about Australian history, but I found the writing style sort of hard to get into. It's neither a novel nor a straight historical account, but a mix of both, and that didn't really work for me. There would be bits written in a very fictional tone, including thoughts from characters the author couldn't have known the thoughts of, and then you'd hit a big section with excerpts of historical documents, complete with citations.

Still, I enjoyed it (and it helped that it was quite short) and would definitely recommend it.

I'm curious to see the movie and see how it compares with the book.
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[identity profile] kyuuketsukirui.livejournal.com
Title: Does My Head Look Big in This?
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Number of Pages: 360 pages
My Rating: 3.5/5

Amal is a sixteen-year-old Palestinian-Australian girl attending a mostly-white prep school. When the new semester starts, she decides she wants to wear the hijab full-time, even though she knows she's just letting herself in for even more harrassment from her clueless classmates.

This is a cute story. It seems like a pretty typical YA chick-lit story. The girls are all very girly and into fashion and makeup and boys, and there's boy trouble and mean girls screaming at parents who Just Don't Understand and all that sort of thing. But it's nice to see that sort of story with a Muslim protagonist.

I really liked that she wasn't the only Muslim in the story, either. She wasn't standing in for all Muslim women; there were her family members, her friends Yasmeen and Leila and their families, and mentions of the kids at the Islamic school Amal used to go to.

Reading this felt almost as nostalgic as Alex Sanchez's The God Box did. Even though I was raised in a conservative Christian family, not Muslim, a lot of what Amal said felt very familiar (I was never personally religious the way she is, but I certainly knew many people who were/are).

The writing isn't that great. I'm really over this first-person info-dump thing that seems to be so popular. I don't mind first-person narration, but it's possible to tell a story without first giving me a whole chapter about the narrator's life story, really.

Mooch from BookMooch.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
#35 - Michelle Cooper, The Rage of Sheep
YA lit by an author I already loved, but only recently discovered was a POC. Hester (like the author) is Indian-Fijian/Australian, growing up in a country town in NSW. The characters are marvellous, as are both plot and subplots. More here

#36 - Waleed Aly, People Like Us: How Arrogance is Dividing Islam and the West
Thinking a book is fabulous does not necessarily mean that one agrees with every word. This is one of those books. I think I'm more willing to mentally argue with the author because we're so very much of the same generation that we were in the same law school class. More here

#37 - Edna Tantjingu Williams and Eileen Wani Wingfield, illustrated by Kunyi June-Anne McInerney, Down the Hole Up the Tree Across the Sandhills...: ...Running from the State and Daisy Bates
Heart breaking. Heart shattering. Just as it ought to be. A really great, and effective, story of the realities of the Stolen Generations. In English with use of Yankunytjatjara, Kokatha and Matutjara languages (with translations and pronunciation guide). More here

#38 - Mary Malbunka, When I Was Little, Like You
The story of growing up as an indigenous child in a remote community: of moving around, of living as much as they could off the land. Beautiful illustrations, also by Malbunka. Uses Luritja words as well as English: as with Down the Hole the book includes a glossary and pronunciation guide. This is going to be one of those books I automatically buy as presents for every little baby I have a connection with. More here

Tagging - a: malbunka mary, a: williams edna tantjingu, a: wingfield eileen wani, a: cooper michelle, a: aly waleed, i: mcinerney kunyi june-anne, fijian-indian-australian, egyptian-australian
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
This gets me totally and completely up to date on posting reviews to [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc. Until I finish my next book, anyway...

Us Mob by Mudrooroo (1995, Angus & Robertson)

This is going on my "want to own" and "Indigenous Australia 101" lists. It does exactly what it says on the cover: provide an introduction to a whole lot of issues relating to Indigenous Australians. It's organised by general topic area, with chapters on health, spirituality, language, education, politics, land rights... It's immediately post-Mabo, so it's about fifteen years old at this point. The concluding chapter looks forward so specifically to 2000 as hopefully being the year of Australia becoming a republic that it hurts. (In fact, when this was published, Howard wasn't in government yet: ain't *that* a sobering thought. Things were about to get a whole lot worse...)

Highlights/Lowlights )

Fabulous book, well worth time and effort.

Tags needed: a: mudrooroo
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Spirit song: A collection of Aboriginal Poetry by Lorraine Mafi-Williams (Omnibus, 1993)

I enjoyed this one more than Inside Black Australia, although that's likely more because of where I was in my head when I read Spirit Song vs Inside Black Australia. Also, there were a lot more female poets included in this collection, and a female editor. Which I think made a lot of difference.

While I do think my reactions come down at least in part to the changes in my own way of thinking in the interim, this collection has the aim of being a collection for children and young people. IBA had an activist aim.

Which isn't to say the collection goes soft on the politics. But it was put together many years after IBA, and in a different climate, by a different editor.

My favourite poems are both mentioned in the introduction: "Integration" by Jack Davis, and "Visions" by Eva Johnson. They are two of the more positive poems, although neither pulls its punches. I used Davis' poem to round off a recent sermon.

The final stanza of a Barbara Armytage poem ("Survival") near the end of the collection sums up so much for me:

They aimed for extinction
We survived with grace
We gather and teach
The remains of our race.

Tags ed: mafi-williams lorraine
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Black Chicks Talking by Leah Purcell (Hodder Headline, 2002)

This book is going on my personal "learning about Australia 101" list. I'm going to badger all my friends into reading it if they haven't already. Because this book is ... I can't think of any better word: this book is awesome. It fills me with awe.

These ten women - the nine interviewees plus Purcell herself - share so much of themselves in this book, and so openly. And yet also so matter-of-factly. They don't pull punches about the awful parts of life, but what shines through so clearly is the shared humanity of all of us. Which is why it's going to be top of my 101 list.

It's close to impossible to choose a favourite interview or interviewee, or even a 'most influential' one. Cilla Malone (mother of five - I think) left me breathless and amazed by what she does in caring for her children and her community; Tammy Williams has done a staggering amount; Deb Mailman is just so strong and centred, as is Rachel Perkins only in an entirely different way; and Liza Gooda-Frazer in a different way again. Kathryn Hay - who in many ways seems the most fragile of the group - has such grace in letting that fragility show, along with another core of strength that is there as well.

I just love the way this is written (put together), along with the Black Chicks painting (all in shades of pink!) and the portraits of all the women, and Leah's description of their dinner together as the culmination of the project.

Tags needed: a: purcell leah, and I'd love an "interviews" tag or similar, too.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
[livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc favourite (the statistics that [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija posted a while ago proved it) Shaun Tan has been awarded the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers 2009 for Tales from Outer Suburbia.

I haven't read it yet, but I will read it soon. (It *does* contain both text and pictures by Tan.) I'm thrilled by his win (his second - The Arrival was Picture Book of the Year at some point, and I'm almost certain The Red Tree and The Lost Thing were Honour Books in their respective years of publication) and thought that the comm would want to know.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
This is the book that has held up my other reviews. Which is probably a good thing, because my initial opinion of it is certainly a little different now than it was when I first read the book about six weeks ago.

Summary: Deep beneath the land is the Rainbow Spirit or the Rainbow Snake, the eternal source of life and spiritual power. [The authors] identify God the Creator with the Rainbow Spirit and they see in Christ the incarnation of the Rainbow Spirit in human form, which for them is Aboriginal Australian.

My first comment is related to authorship. I puzzled initially over whether this book "counted", even though my gut feeling is that it does. The people who physically wrote the words down are white: Rob Bos and Norman Habel. But the group who came up with the words, whose work is behind this, and who have (as the introduction states) approved the final version of the words, are all Indigenous Australians: George Rosendale, Nola Archie, Dennis Corowa, William Coolburra, Eddie Law and James Leftwich. Jasmine Corowa was the group's artist. (I know Dennis and James a little, and hugely respect both them and George - of whom I've heard - and have been on a committee with Rob for the past three years.) In the end, I think saying that this *doesn't* count would be infantilising the Rainbow Spirit Elders; essentially saying that they didn't "really" participate in this work.

Comments on content )

Ultimately - this book is a way that I can listen to the Elders, and I need to view it in that light. I will benefit greatly from re-reading this book and contemplating it further. Of that I am absolutely certain.
[identity profile] rootedinsong.livejournal.com
29. Ten Things I Hate About Me, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

I liked this a lot more than Does My Head Look Big In This? Real, honest examination of passing, dual consciousness, and holding on to one's cultural identity.

One thing that got on my nerves about it was the protagonist's older sister, who is one of these "smart kids" and uses (or is portrayed as using) strings of big words that actually don't make much sense. That's a particular pet peeve of mine...

30. Persepolis (complete edition), by Marjane Satrapi

I really liked this. Comparing this to a lot of other books that portray authoritarian regimes, real or fictional, really illustrates for me one of the main things that [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc is about: the viewpoint matters.

So many books depict the horrors of a regime and the devastation it wreaks on the citizens, emphasizing how resistance is crushed and the people's spirits are broken. This shows oppression, but not the breaking of spirits; it shows the little everyday resistances, the extent to which the regime does not control the people, the fact that the people are emphatically still human and life is still life.

And the book is not about that. It's about the author's own story.

31. No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, by Reza Aslan

I read this on [livejournal.com profile] sheafrotherdon's recommendation. I agree with her assessment: it's really beautifully written, really clear, and really engaging. (And I find most books of history to be excruciatingly boring.)

The author starts with a depiction of the society in which the Prophet Muhammad lived and goes on to explain the social and religious reforms that he championed, the reception of his message, and the evolution of Islamic thought, practice, and politics from then until the present day. I kept thinking, "Oh, that makes so much sense now!" or "Now I understand what people mean when they say..." (It shed a lot of light on books on Islam that I've previously reviewed here.)

At the end, he argues for a reformation within Islam - new ways of understanding the religion, formulations of an indigenous Islamic conception of democracy. (It actually reminded me a lot of what I said in my review of The Whale Rider - he doesn't think of it in terms of a conflict between Western conceptions of human rights and the traditions of Islam, but in terms of Islam evolving, reforming itself from within.)

[identity profile] rootedinsong.livejournal.com
13. River's Daughter, by Tasha Campbell ([livejournal.com profile] kittikattie)

I thought this was a lovely, simple story, with a sense of rootedness that many stories lack (rootedness in the land, in nature, in a culture where characters truly belong). I loved how the river was the protagonist's connection to her people and her true identity.

The ending threw me off balance a bit - I didn't expect the protagonist to kill one of her oppressors to ensure that the townspeople remained afraid of the river so that they would leave her people alone. I expected the book to end with her finding freedom, being content just to have escaped. But I could understand how violence could be required to keep the oppressors away.

14. Does My Head Look Big In This?, by Randa Abdel-Fattah

I kind of had to make myself keep reading this book. The protagonist got on my nerves - I dislike books about girly girls who are focused on boys, pop culture, shopping, their appearance, etc.

I warmed to her more in the second half of the book, when the focus was more on serious issues, and I didn't mind finishing it. But I still wouldn't read it again.
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[personal profile] alias_sqbr
I enjoyed this but didn't LOVE it, but I'm not a huge fan of YA. I reviewed it a bit more at my lj.
[identity profile] lehni.livejournal.com
1. Octavia Butler - Parable of the Sower
2. Octavia Butler - Parable of the Talents
3. Octavia Butler - Bloodchild and other stories

I'm really grateful to this community for introducing me to Octavia's work. My main delight in discovering her are the strong, complex and not always sympathetic female protagonists in her stories, but I also enjoy the realism she brings in her portrayal of dystopia. Parable of the Talents may come off strongly as anti-Christianity which might bother some readers.

I tried reading the first few hundred pages of The Broken Crown by Michelle Sagara but I found it really cliched and frustratingly difficult to follow. I think that the first ten pages will tell you if it's your kind of book or not.

4. Richard Kiyosaki and Lechter, Sharon - Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Personal finance book with an entrepreneurial slant - I had only heard of the blog before reading this. I don't really agree with most of the advice. Kiyossaki also comes off as anti-'wage slave' which isn't very endearing. This book also had some very negative reviews online. The main personal finance book that I would recommend to most of my friends is still Your Money or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin (the 2008 edition has a third author as well).

5. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - Mixed feelings: the complex lives of mixed race Britons

The first third of this book is a brief history of mixed race relationships more globally; almost all of it was new to me and I found it really interesting. The personal anecdotes throughout the book really help to illustrate the diversity of interracial relationships and families, (although granted the majority of interviewees are white/poc and particularly white/black - not necessarily problematic given the methodology of collection; Alibhai-Brown does discuss the need for further research into the mixed race population and notes issues with self-reporting on government ethnic monitoring forms.) I found it a very worthwhile read and the personal stories prevent the content from seeming too dry. Alibhai-Brown does comment occasionally on her own personal situation (she has a white husband and a mixed-race daughter) but it doesn't detract from her research.

6. Tananarive Due - The Good House

Modern horror and a cautionary tale against dabbling in magic. The book centres around Angela and her relationships with her separated husband, her son and an old boyfriend. I found her relationships a bit boring and found it difficult to sympathise with Angela most of the time, but the book was interesting enough to finish.

Before joining this community I read Growing Up Asian in Australia (ed. Alice Pung), which is an anthology of 'growing up' stories written by Asian-Australians. The collection is pretty diverse and includes mixed race, queer and famous contributors (off the top of my head this includes celebrity chef Kylie Kwong and illustrator/writer Shaun Tan). I really recommend it, particularly for fellow Asians who have grown up in western countries.
[identity profile] sweet-adelheid.livejournal.com
Quick-version reviews:

#22 - Infidel: My Life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hirsi Ali grew up in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya. Her experiences of Islam cross a spectrum from her (mostly-absent) father's approach, which in some ways allowed interpretation and debate but in other ways was highly traditional, through to devotion to the calls for the renewal of Islam by the Muslim Brotherhood. She's now become in/famous for her calls to consider ways in which Islam may be problematic.

#23 - The Dreaming, Vol 1-3 by Queenie Chan
Although manga is enough of a departure from my regular type of reading that I feel justified in posting it here, I couldn't count the three volumes as separate books. Only the third volume took more than an afternoon/evening to read. In the end, I can't recommend this book, because of what I (ymmv) see as a very problematic treatment of Indigenous Australian cultures and traditions. More info at my LJ.

#24 - Inside Black Australia: An Anthology of Aboriginal Poetry, edited by Kevin Gilbert.
Published in 1988 as a "Bicentennial" year protest, this collection is full of anger, and I found most of it very hard to cope with. I did persevere through to the end though, and I'm glad I did, as Gilbert's own poetry is last in the collection, and despite the fact that his introductions both to other poets and himself had angered and alienated me, I found that some of his poems were *beautiful*, and that they portrayed their anger in a way that allowed me to process it, rather than just putting up a wall. Note: many readers of this comm may find my review difficult or potentially offensive, particularly on "tone argument" grounds.

#25 - The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
I started reading this before the election, but only just finished it, for the simple reason that I own it, and thus it wasn't subject to library due dates. It is a great book, and I'll have to boost Dreams from my Father further up my To Read list.


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