I Am Sasha by Anita Selzer

I am Sasha.jpgTitle: I Am Sasha

Author: Anita Selzer

Genre: Historical Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published:  2nd April, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 325

Price: $17.99

Synopsis: One boy’s extraordinary experience of wartime survival. One mother’s incredible courage. Based on an astounding true story.  It is German-occupied Poland in 1942, and Jewish lives are at risk. Nazi soldiers order young boys to pull down their trousers to see if they are circumcised. Many are summarily shot or sent to the camps.
A devoted mother takes an ingenious step. To avoid suspicion, she trains her teenage son the be a girl: his clothing, voice, hair, manners and more. Together, mother and son face incredible odds as their story sweeps backwards and forwards across occupied Europe.

~*~

Based on a true story, I am Sasha is the story of the author’s father, who spent his teenage years from 1942-1944, after the Soviet liberation of Poland, hiding as a girl, under false papers that also hid his, and his mother’s Jewish identity from the Nazis as they marched and invaded their way across Europe. Larissa, Sasha’s mother, ensures his safety as they move back and forth between Polish towns, avoiding the ghettos and transports to camp. After seeing what happens to boys from their hiding place in a barn, Larissa concocts a plan to turn Sasha into a girl – Sala – to keep him safe. Their lives are constantly under threat though, and they’re always moving finding new places to live and settle, until they find somewhere they are able to stay until the Soviets liberate Poland, and a place where Sasha’s mother begins work for the Zegota, a Jewish underground resistance that helps Jewish people escape the Nazis.

At the end of the war, their story is followed until their arrival in Australia, and their reconnections with their family, friends and the new friends they make in the displacement and refugee camps as they journey to their new home in Melbourne.

AWW-2018-badge-roseI am Sasha was inspired by a family’s history, a grandmother’s memoir and a father’s short story, given to a daughter and granddaughter to retell for the world. In 1994, Larissa gave Anita the manuscript, written in English – because she wanted to reach as many people as possible with her story, explaining to Anita that she wrote it in English to reach a wide audience – an audience that would include those affected and those not affected, and those all over the world who wanted to know more.

It is a story of sacrifice and the drive to do whatever one can to survive, whilst witnessing the depravity of humanity, and what humans are capable of at their worst, but also, what people will risk to save themselves, and keep others safe – what they will sacrifice or potentially lose just to keep friends safe – as Bella, Larissa’s gentile friend did for Larissa and Sasha throughout the years, before disappearing to Warsaw shortly before the end of the war.

Larissa and Sasha showed great resilience through their years of hiding and Sasha pretending to be a girl – Sala – under false papers, in a regime where you never knew who you could trust and where your landlady, or neighbours could turn you into the Gestapo at any time, on the mere suspicion of being Jewish, or a Communist or anyone who was against the Nazi regime. It is just one of many stories about the Holocaust and the horrors of World War Two around today.

Never forget are the final two words in the author’s note, and the horrors of the Holocaust, of stories like Sasha’s, Anne Frank and many more are a part of history we should never forget, and never let happen again. We should never forget the millions of people the Nazi’s persecuted based on religion, race, politics, sexuality or anyone who simply tried to resist them, and the brutality that these people faced, and the survival stories as well as the tragic ends. None of this should be forgotten. This is why Sasha’s story is an important one, and why it was important for Anita, his daughter, to tell.

Stories like this remind us of why we must resist regimes and abuse, and why we must speak out and stand up for what we believe in, because otherwise, the people who commit these atrocities and who support them win. I found this story to be powerful and moving, and as such, I read it very quickly. Whilst it is aimed at a Young Adult audience, I feel anyone interested will be able to read this and understand it.

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Some of the authors appearing at the Sydney Writer’s Festival…

It’s that time of year again, when the programs and author schedules for the annual Sydney Writer’s Festival are announced. Held between the first and the sixth of May, mostly at Carriageworks but with some events at a variety of other places around Sydney, there will be many events to choose from, and many authors to meet and hear speak.

Below is a sampling of the authors published by Hachette who will be attending this year, which has a diverse and intriguing calendar of events that I am sure will sell out quickly! So here are some of the authors appearing, and when and where they will be appearing.

American author, Jennifer Egan, author of Emerald City and Other Stories, The Invisible Circus,The Keep,Look at Me, Black Box,A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Manhattan Beach. Jennifer will be appearing at the following events, all in Bay 17 at Carriageworks.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 3pm – On the Record: Historical Fiction

Saturday the 5th of May at 6pm – Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach

Sunday the 6th of May at 6pm: Closing Address: Jennifer Egan.

Also from America, Zack McDermott, author of Gorilla and the Bird, will be appearing on the following dates at the following locations:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20: The Full Catastrophe

Friday, the 4th of May, at 11.30am, Carriageworks, Track 8: Zack McDermott: Gorilla and the Bird

Alexis Okeowo, author of A Moonless, Starless Sky, also from America, will be appearing at four different events over the course of the week, all at Carriageworks, where the majority of the events are held.

Tuesday, the 1st of May at 6.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Opening Address: André Aciman, Min Jin Lee and Alexis Okeowo

Friday the 4th of May, 3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Conflicting Narratives

Saturday, the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Resisting Unjust Authority

Sunday, the 6th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky

 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, an Arab-Australian writer, editor, teacher and community art s worker will also be appearing. His book, The Lebs, is about breaking down stereotypes and showing people that a small minority don’t determine the majority of a culture. Michael will be appearing at the following events at the Seymour Centre, and the Riverside Theatres.

Monday, the 30th of April, at 9.30am, Seymour Centre, Workshop Room 1: Michael Mohammed Ahmad: Good Writing versus Bad Writing.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 11.15am Seymour Centre York Theatre: Student Session: The Next Wave.

Friday, the 4th of May, Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge, 4.30PM: New Australian Voices.

Saturday, the 5th of May, Riverside Theatres, Lennox Theatre, 10am: From the Sidelines AND at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing.

Walkley Award winning journalist, Michael Brissenden will also be appearing at the festival, at will have one event at the Seymour Centre.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 1.30pm, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Straight from the Headlines,

The third Australian author published by Hachette to appear is Indigenous author, Claire G Coleman, author of Terra Nullius, a speculative fiction looking at the concept of invasion and settlement, using aliens taking over the world as a metaphor and symbol. It was an interesting and eye-opening book to read, my review is here. Claire will be appearing at three events across each precinct of the festival.

terra nullius

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Home Truths: Telling Australian Stories.

Friday the 4th of May, at 11.30am at Carriageworks Blacksmith’s Workshop: Claire G Coleman: On Fiction, Villains and the Nature of Evil

Saturday the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Riverside Theatres: Architects of New Worlds.

fairvale

Another Australian author appearing at the festival is Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, reviewed on this blog as well and it, and the previous book, Terra Nullius, were included in my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge last year. Sophie will be appearing at one event this year.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Family Ties.

Royce Kurmelovs is another author appearing, and he has written the following books: Death of Holden, Rogue Nation, and Boom and Bust (2018). He will be appearing at an event about the rise of Australian populism.

Saturday the 6th of May, at 11.30 at the Seymour Centre, York Theatre: The Rise of Australian Populism.

Peter Polites, author of Down the Hume will also be in attendance at the following events and is another new Australian author whose book has come out recently.

Peter will be appearing at two events this year:

Saturday, the 5th of May at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing, with Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

Sunday, the 6th of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge: Pajtim Statovci: My Cat Yugoslavia

Award winning journalist, Hugh Riminton, a news presenter and foreign correspondent, will be at the festival chatting about his book, Minefields. Hugh will be appearing at three events across the week of the festival.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Becoming the Story.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Hurstville Library: Hugh Riminton: Minefields/

Saturday, the 5th of May, 11.30am, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Peter Greste: The First Casualty.

Michael Robotham will also be appearing, and has written the following books: The Suspect,The Drowning Man, The Night Ferry Shatter,Bombproof,Bleed For Me,The Wreckage,Say You’re Sorry, Watching You,Life or Death,Close Your Eyes,The Secret She Keeps, and The Other Wife (2018).  Michael will be appearing at the following events:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 1.30pm at Carriageworks, Blacksmith’s Workshop: Michael Robotham: On Plotting the Perfect Crime.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 6.30pm at Blacktown City Max Webber Library: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 10.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 7pm, The Concourse Concert Hall: Jane Harper: Force of Nature.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Gabriel Talent: My Absolute Darling.

Sha’an d’Anthes, a new Australian author based in Sydney who has had a career as an artist and illustrator and has travelled all over the world. She will be speaking at two events on the final day of the festival. Her picture book, Zoom, was published by Hachette Australia.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May at 2.15pm. Carriageworks, Track 8: Illustrator Battle Grounds.

Libby Hathorn, well known Australian author of books for children and young adults will also be appearing. Some of her books are: Thunderwith, The Blue Dress, Georgiana, Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, Volcano Boy, The Painter, Feral Kid, Chrysalis, Love Me Tender, Eventual Poppy Day, A Soldier, A Dog and A Boy, and Butterfly, We’re Expecting You!

eventual poppy day

Libby will be appearing at the following events:

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 11.15am, Carriageworks, Track 12: Outside: A Feast of the Senses.

Binny Talib will also be appearing, at the same event as Libby Hathorn and Sha’an d’Anthes on the Sunday morning of the festival. Binny has two books published by Hachette Australia, Origami Heart and Hark It’s Me, Ruby Lee!

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Another Australian author to appear will be Shaun Tan. who has worked in theatre and films as concept artists and designers. His works include Lost Thing, Memorial, The Red Tree, The Rabbits, The Viewer, Rules of Summer, The Arrival (an acclaimed wordless novel), and Cicada, published in 2018. Shaun will be appearing at one event on the Saturday.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 3pm, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: Bringing Imaginary Worlds to Life.

Hachette’s final author to be appearing is Debra Tindall, author of The Scared Book. she began her career as a social worker before becoming an author. The Scared Book is a CBCA notable book for children. She will be appearing at the same event as Libby Hathorn, Binny Talib and Sha’an d’Anthes.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Check out the Sydney Writer’s Festival website for more events and authors.

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Winners of the Indie Book Awards Announcement.

Congratulations to the following books and their fabulous home-grown authors for winning in the following categories for the Indie Book Awards, especially Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, which won in two categories! These winners were announced today and what a wonderful surprise to get home to!

nevermoor

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend: Children’s Book of the Year and Book of the Year

The Choke by Sophie Laguna: Fiction Winner

Wimmera by Michael Brandi: Debut Fiction Winner

Native: Art & Design with Australian Plants by Kate Herd & Jela Ivankovic-Waters: Illustrated Non-Fiction Winner

Wilder Country by Mark Smith: Young Adult Winner

2018 is the first year that a children’s book – Nevermoor – has won overall, and it is even more special as this is the tenth year the Indie Awards have been running!

I’ve read Nevermoor and can say it’s well deserving of all the nominations, shortlists and prizes it has been winning as it is an engaging story and full of wonder and magic. Much like some other prize winners I have read, it captures the reader and their imagination, and opens up a world of possibilities to them. Of the others, I have Wimmera on my reading pile, as well as several of the long listed and shortlisted works, some of which I have also read.

Seeing such amazing books and many Australian authors getting the recognition they deserve is amazing, and shows that the love of books is still around.

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NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlist for 2018

One of the Australia’s literary awards has just announced the shortlist for 2018 – The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, with the winner to be announced in April. Each category and the shortlisted novels for this prize are listed below for 2018, and information about each prize category can be found here in a previous post:

The Christina Stead Prize for Fiction:

Common People by Tony Birch, published by UQP

Seabirds Crying in the Harbour Dark by Catherine Cole, published by UWA

Pulse Points by Jennifer Down, published by Text Publishing

The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser, published by Text Publishing

The Restorer by Michael Sala, published by Text Publishing

Taboo by Kim Scott

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction:

Victoria: The Woman Who Made the Modern World by Julia Baird, published by HarperCollins Publishers “A passion for exploring new countries” Matthew Flinders & George Bass by Josephine Bastian, published by Australian Scholarly Publishing

The Enigmatic Mr Deakin by Judith Brett, published by Text Publishing

Passchendaele: Requiem for Doomed Youth by Paul Ham, published by Penguin Random House Australia

The Green Bell: a memoir of love, madness and poetry by Paula Keogh, published by Affirm Press

The Boy Behind the Curtain by Tim Winton, published by Penguin Random House Australia

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry:

Archipelago by Adam Aitken, published by Vagabond Press

Euclid’s dog: 100 algorithmic poems by Jordie Albiston, published by Gloria SMH Press

Bone Ink by Rico Craig, published by Guillotine Press

Argosy by Bella Li, published by Vagabond Press

Captive and Temporal by Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng, published by Vagabond Press

These Wild Houses by Omar Sakr, published by Cordite Books

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and illustrated by Van T Rudd, published by Hachette Australia

The Elephant by Peter Carnavas published by UQP

Blossom by Tamsin Janu, published by Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia

Figgy Takes the City by Tamsin Janu, published by Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia

How To Bee by Bren MacDibble, published by Allen & Unwin

The Sorry Tale of Fox and Bear by Margrete Lamond and illustrated by Heather Vallance, published by Dirt Lane Press

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black, published by Hardie Grant Egmont

the blue cat

The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky, published by Allen & Unwin

The Ones That Disappeared by Zana Fraillon, published by Hachette Australia

A Shadow’s Breath by Nicole Hayes, published by Penguin Random House Australia

The Build-Up Season by Megan Jacobson, published by Penguin Random House Australia

Ballad for a Mad Girl by Vikki Wakefield, published by Text Publishing

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting

The Sound of Waiting by Mary Anne Butler, published by Brown’s Mart Arts Ltd

Rice by Michele Lee, Presented by Queensland Theatre and Griffin Theatre Company, published by Playlab

Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui, published by Sydney Theatre Company

Mark Colvin’s Kidney by Tommy Murphy, published by Currency Press and Belvoir

Little Emperors by Lachlan Philpott, published by Malthouse Theatre

The Real and Imagined History of the Elephant Man by Tom Wright, published by Malthouse Theatre

Betty Rowland Prize for Scriptwriting

Deep Water: The Real Story written by Amanda Blue and Jacob Hickey – Blackfella Films

Top of the Lake: China Girl, Series 2 Episode 4 ‘Birthday’ by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee – See-Saw Films

Sweet Country by Steven McGregor and David Tranter – Bunya Productions

Seven Types of Ambiguity, Episode 2 ‘Alex’ by Jacquelin Perske – Matchbox Pictures

Please Like Me, Series 4 Episode 5 ‘Burrito Bowl’ by Josh Thomas, Thomas Ward and Liz Doran – Guesswork TV

Multicultural Award NSW

No More Boats by Felicity Castagna, published by Giramondo Publishing

The Permanent Resident by Roanna Gonsalves, published by UWA Publishing

Dark Convicts by Judy Johnson, published by UWA Publishing

The Family Law, Series 2 Episode 4 by Benjamin Law and Kirsty Fisher – Matchbox Pictures

Down the Hume by Peter Polites, published by Hachette Australia

Quicksilver by Nicholas Rothwell, published by Text Publishing

Indigenous Writer’s Prize

Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt, published by UQP

Common People by Tony Birch, published by UQP

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss, published by Simon & Schuster Australia

The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell published and produced by Currency Press and Belvoir in association with Oombarra Productions)

Taboo by Kim Scott, published by Pan Macmillam Australia

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

2018 Shortlist The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on 30 April 2018. There is no shortlist for this category.

About the award

  • The UTS Glenda Adams Award ($5,000) is for a published book of fiction written by an author who has not previously published a book-length work of narrative fiction or narrative non-fiction.

  • The Award seeks to recognise outstanding new literary talent. The winning author may produce an excellent piece of writing in a traditional fictional form or may challenge and expand the boundaries of the genre.

  • The winner of the UTS Glenda Adams Award is chosen from entries submitted for the Christina Stead Prize (no additional entry fee is required for this award).

  • Entrants who meet the UTS Glenda Adams Award criteria should indicate on the nomination form if they wish to be considered for the Award.

  • There may not be a shortlist in this category.

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize – Next awarded 2019

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize – Next awarded 2019

 

 

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Book Bingo Five – A foreign translated novel, a novel with a yellow cover, a novel by an Australian man, a funny book, a memoir and a non-fiction book.

book bingo 2018.jpgIn my fifth Book Bingo post for the year, I can report that I have a BINGO! The final row going down, row five, is complete, with three out of the five squares being filled with Australian Women Writers. The text version of the row is below:

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Row #5 (Down) – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner (translated by Niall Seller

A book with themes of culture: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

A book with a mystery: Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen – AWW2018

A book with a number in the title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn – AWW2018

babylon berlinOf these, the latest addition is a foreign translated novel – Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, translated by Niall Seller and sent to me by Allen and Unwin to review. It is the first in a crime series by a German author, set during the dying years of the Weimar Republic in the inter-war period, when the world is inching towards the Great Depression. It centres around Detective Gereon Rath, and the crimes he solves, and the things that he overlooks, the various underworld activities that are accepted in dark corners, but not always out in the open. I did like the idea behind this, and the historical backdrop, however, as stated in my review, I felt some things dragged on a bit, making these sections a tad slow but the fast-paced sections were what really drove the novel and gave it the oomph that it needed.

tin manI have five other squares to include – I am aiming to fill them with whatever works, and some will be Australian Women Writers, others won’t, it simply depends on where the books fit. First, is a novel with a yellow cover – Tin Man by Sarah Winman. It is the story of two gay men, whose first encounter has them ripped apart but then drawn back together as friends, with Annie, the wife of Ellis, one of the main characters. It is a touching story of the various ways we express our love, and to whom we choose to express that love. With a touch of realism about it, it touches on fears as well as love.

Skin-in-the-Game_cover-for-publicity-600x913My memoir square has been filled by Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonia Voumard. In a series of essays, Sonia tells her story about being a journalist, and the daughter of a World War Two refugee – her mother, with humour and frankness, and an honesty that shines a light on some of the challenges faced by journalists behind the scenes of stories, interviews and publications, and how they try to overcome these under increasing pressure of a 24 hour news cycle, where the demand for facts and results at all times seems to be a struggle to keep up with. It is insightful and gives a new appreciation for what journalists do and at times go through for me.

grandpa me poetryThe book taking up the square of a funny novel has not been published yet, so the longer review will be linked here when it goes live. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, and published by Scholastic. It is the story of Melly, who loves poetry and her Grandpa. When given the chance to explore her two loves, she jumps at it, and through a series of amusing scenes with funny rhymes, she finds a way to write a wonderful poem for Family Day.

the opal dragonflyThe novel by Australian Man square was filled by new release, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale, about Isobel Macleod, youngest of seven and her father’s favourite, and the opal dragonfly brooch left to her by her mother that sees hard times befall the family through a series of tragedies over the years that they can never recover from. It is about family loyalty, betrayal and finding oneself in the harshest of circumstances, and finding a new life for yourself

spinning topsSpinning Tops and Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood fills the non-fiction square. Using images and statements, and other stories from the time, Edwin Barnard has created a window into a world where the realities of childhood were vastly different to those for today’s children. It tells of a time when threats from illness and bushrangers were ever present, where children had to work as well as go to school, and in some cases, instead of going to school. It is interesting and gives a window into colonial life beyond text on a page.  

Look out for my next Book Bingo in a few weeks time!

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Stella Prize Shortlist

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The announcement of the 2018 shortlist for the annual Stella Prize happened today, on International Women’s Day. From a long-list of twelve, six have made the shortlist, and it is a diverse, eclectic and powerful selection of the voices of Australian women. The importance of this, at a time when women’s voices are demanding to be heard in all spheres is important: the diversity in these books should be interesting, and I have at least two on my to read list, and one on my read list. Of the others, I am yet to decide if I will add them to my growing to be read lists and piles, as they look just as interesting as the ones I have chosen to read.

This year’s shortlisted books and authors are diverse and relevant and show the breadth of writing by Australian women. The themes in the books are about family, politics, identity and what has been, and what might come. The diversity of these stories is what gives them their power.

Shortlist:

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

 Shokoofeh-Azar_The-Englightenment-of-the-Greengage-Tree_Low-Res-from-Website-670x1024.jpg

This book is an extraordinarily powerful and evocative literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that sweeps across an ancient land and its people. Azar is the consummate storyteller, using the panoply of Persian mythical and mystical entities to bring life, humour, hope, resignation, and profound insights to the characters and their world.

Terra Nullis by Clare G. Coleman

terra nulliusJacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to have a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, reeducation is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.

This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history. This TERRA NULLIUS is something new, but all too familiar.

This is an incredible debut from a striking new Australian Aboriginal voice.

The Life to Come by Michelle de Krester

 

Michelle-de-Kretser_The-Life-to-Come-669x1024.jpgSet in Sydney, Paris and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is a mesmerising novel about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies and as nations. It feels at once firmly classic and exhilaratingly contemporary.

Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. Driven by riveting stories and unforgettable characters, here is a dazzling meditation on intimacy, loneliness and our flawed perception of other people.

Profoundly moving as well as wickedly funny, The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present. This extraordinary novel by Miles Franklin-winning author Michelle de Kretser will strike to your soul.

 

 

An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

 

Krissy-Kneen_An-Uncertain-Grace_High-Res-669x1024.jpgSome time in the near future, university lecturer Caspar receives a gift from a former student called Liv: a memory stick containing a virtual narrative. Hooked up to a virtual reality bodysuit, he becomes immersed in the experience of their past sexual relationship. But this time it is her experience. What was for him an erotic interlude, resonant with the thrill of seduction, was very different for her—and when he has lived it, he will understand how.

Later…

A convicted paedophile recruited to Liv’s experiment in collective consciousness discovers a way to escape from his own desolation.

A synthetic boy, designed by Liv’s team to ‘love’ men who desire adolescents, begins to question the terms of his existence.

L, in transition to a state beyond gender, befriends Liv, in transition to a state beyond age.

Liv herself has finally transcended the corporeal—but there is still the problem of love.

An Uncertain Grace is a novel in five parts by one of Australia’s most inventive and provocative writers. Moving, thoughtful, sometimes playful, it is about who we are—our best and worst selves, our innermost selves—and who we might become.

 

The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe

Mirandi-Riwoe_The-Fish-Girl.jpgSparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, ‘The Four Dutchmen’, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.

Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.

 

Tracker by Alexis Wright

Tracker-by-Alexis-Wright_from-Giramondo-665x1024.jpg 

Alexis Wright returns to non-fiction in her new book, a collective memoir of the charismatic Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth, who died in Darwin in 2015 at the age of 62.

Taken from his family as a child and brought up in a mission on Croker Island, Tracker Tilmouth worked tirelessly for Aboriginal self-determination, creating opportunities for land use and economic development in his many roles, including Director of the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory.

Tracker was a visionary, a strategist and a projector of ideas, renowned for his irreverent humour and his determination to tell things the way he saw them. Having known him for many years, Alexis Wright interviewed Tracker, along with family, friends, colleagues, and the politicians he influenced, weaving his and their stories together in a manner reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize–winning author Svetlana Alexievich. The book is as much a testament to the powerful role played by storytelling in contemporary Aboriginal life as it is to the legacy of an extraordinary man.

I look forward to hearing which of these books wins in April. Reading about them, I think the judges have a very tough decision to make.

 

Booktopia

Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood

spinning tops.jpgTitle: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood

Author: Edwin Barnard

Genre: Australian History

Publisher: NLA Publishing

Published: 1st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $44.99

Synopsis: Spinning Tops and Gumdrops’ takes us back to childhood in colonial Australia. The delight of children at play is universal, but the pleasure these children experience as depicted through the book’s photographs is through their ‘imagination, skill and daring’ rather than through possessions. Children play quoits and jacks, hide and seek, cricket with a kerosene tin for a wicket, dress ups and charades. They climb trees, run races, and build rafts to sail on the local waterhole. The photographs show children happily absorbed in the play of their own making.

Being a child in colonial Australia was also tough. It was a time when school yard disagreements were sorted out with fists and ‘the loss of a little claret’. A time when children could view public hangings and premature death was frequent, especially taking the very young and vulnerable though dysentery, whooping cough or diphtheria.

The lasting impression left by the contemporary accounts, photographs, etchings and paintings of colonial children in ‘Spinning Tops and Gumdrops’ is their possession of qualities of resilience, self-sufficiency and acceptance of their lot. Perhaps it was through lack of choice, or of knowing no other. Nevertheless, these were qualities that put them in good stead for the challenges many faced in their adulthood. Interestingly, these are qualities on which contemporary society still places a high value, but which today seem a little more elusive.

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What was it like to be a child during colonial times? The first 212 years of Australia after colonisation was a tough time to be a child in the nation. Dangers abounded, and the presence of convicts and bushrangers was interesting and fraught with danger on the outside, should a child survive the many illnesses that have since been eradicated, or had treatments found, such as diphtheria, whooping cough and dysentery, which often robbed young children, and babies of their lives. It was also a time when children worked just as hard as adults on family farms or as domestic servants or apprentices. It was a hard life – no labour laws like we have today, and compulsory education only lasted until early teens. It would appear that they all had the chance to learn the same core subjects, but with extra emphasis on domestically geared tasks such as needlework, and home making for girls.

The pictorial history shows children at work, at play, and at home or school, interspersed with prose about the lives they led, and the disparity of class, and testimonials from children in factories illustrate the neglect, and awful working conditions they endured, and at times, the lack of education, nutrition and familial expectations of these young children – some no more than eight – to contribute financially to the family. It was a vastly different time then, compared to now where children go to school, and there are laws in place to protect them from neglect. The stark difference shows the differing attitudes towards childhood, and the different expectations for the time.

With over 260 images, many of unidentified children, this book gives an aspect of Australian history not often explored, a voice and pictures. It shows a reality that the current younger generations have never had to face and hopefully, will never have to face. It is a social history, that positions ideas of childhood within a society that differs vastly from our own, and where things we see as disagreeable today were accepted. As someone with an interest in history. this opened up the colonial Australia I learnt about at school, and put some humanity, and feeling into the facts that came in text books. A great addition to any history collection.

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