After violent attacks on women in both India and Australia, Eat the Sky, Drink the Moon was created as a collaboration between authors and artists froAfter violent attacks on women in both India and Australia, Eat the Sky, Drink the Moon was created as a collaboration between authors and artists from both countries. The book consists of speculative fiction short stories, graphic stories and a script looking at imagining women in a different world.
As you would expect when you look at the list of authors involved in this project, there’s some wonderful writing in here. The one that stands out most vividly is Margo Lanagan’s Cat Calls, which shows a collaboration of characters coming together to confront street harassment. It’s not a big or showy story, but it’s incredibly effective at hitting the point.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Cooking Time by Anita Roy. Unlike Cat Calls, this was an expansive story – stretching from a futuristic world where all our food comes from tubes to time travel back in the past for a television cooking competition. I’m not even a television cooking competition fan, but I would totally watch MasterChef of All Time – it’s such an imaginative and interesting idea!
What a Stone Can’t Feel by Penni Russon was a really lovely and quiet piece of writing. It felt really contemporary, like we were in another version of our world right now (or a hidden part of our world). The part I love the most in this story is the character talking about how she’d knit memories:
“I’d knit it,” Lyss says again. “I’d knit the whole history of human memory. And if I made a mistake, I wouldn’t frog it. I’d just keep knitting. I’d make the knots and holes part of the fabric”
While there’s lots of great stories in the anthology, it doesn’t quite feel like it’s following a singular purpose as a whole. Some of the stories feel a little indulgent or like they’re trying a little too hard without having a really clear idea of what they’re trying to achieve. A lot of the worlds are ‘different’, but the things happening to the young women in the stories aren’t particularly different to what we see today. I wonder if this was the best way to create an anthology like this or if there were other ways which might have produced a more cohesive piece of work.
Robbie has some awareness of what happens in Walgeree. But living with his father and overbearing Nan doesn’t really give him a greater understandingRobbie has some awareness of what happens in Walgeree. But living with his father and overbearing Nan doesn’t really give him a greater understanding of the world. It’s not until he gets a summer job at the local caravan park with Barry – a man who’s spent time overseas and isn’t impressed with the overwhelming racism of the town – that he starts to understand how bad thing are for the local Aboriginal people. In the summer of 1965 the Freedom Riders are on their way to town and things are at boiling point.
My first thought on this book is ‘why wasn’t this around 5 years ago!’ My class was investigating Australian History and one of the students was researching the Freedom Rides – this would have been perfect for her in so many ways. Hopefully there are other students like her who will benefit from this book and the often overlooked history of the time.
Sue Lawson has done a wonderful job of creating a really awful country town atmosphere. The exclusion of people who aren’t ‘locals’ was spot on, but it was the outwardly racist social structures of the town which was incredibly uncomfortable. Two aspects of it really struck me as a modern reader: this didn’t happen that long ago – my parents would have been just younger than Robbie at the time; and there are still aspects of the social structures, particularly in the language used, that we see today. I could imagine parts of this book provoking some very interesting discussions in a classroom.
Coming from the perspective of a white boy who is employed by a white man, it would have been easy to slip into making those characters ‘white saviours’. Mostly the author manages to avoid that, though there were some aspects of the ending which felt a little like that. Mickey, Robbie’s coworker, is a strongly written character who doesn’t ‘go easy’ on Robbie for his ignorance, but points it out, insisting that Robbie can do better.
On top of learning about how bad the conditions are for the local Aboriginal people, Robbie is dealing with issues at home. His grandmother is determined to control him and his father, insisting that Robbie lives his life the way she wants, but never showing him any form of affection or love. Towards the end of the book a massive family secret is revealed, adding to the feelings of revulsion Robbie has had over his father and grandmother’s racist and close minded attitudes. This additional storyline made Robbie’s break from his past believable – in Barry and Barry’s mother he found affection and openness along with more progressive ideas.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m really glad that there’s Australian Historical YA dealing with this part of our history. I really hope more authors tackle this political and social history into the future.
It’s 1888, but not 1888 like we know it. We’re dealing with an alternative USA, where it’s not really the USA, the Revolutionary War never happened anIt’s 1888, but not 1888 like we know it. We’re dealing with an alternative USA, where it’s not really the USA, the Revolutionary War never happened and America is a British colony. The nobility are present, but they’re also magic, and they use that magic to their own benefit – and to the benefit of no one else.
In this setting, Verity lands herself a job in New York City as a governess to a wealthy – and magical – family. Before long she finds herself entangled in a world of underground engineers and mechanics experimenting with steam machines, while also following the exploits of bandits targeting the ruling classes. She finds herself acting as a spy, moving between one class and the other, while trying to work out what everyone’s hiding.
I absolutely loved the world building in this story. The idea of America as a British Colony is really intriguing, as so much of the American culture is built up out of the American Revolution and the years around it. The outward acceptance of a nobility class and lower classes (further separated by the fact the nobility can do magic and the others can’t) is so different from the myths and legends usually told about a USA where all men are equal.
Add to this a world where engineers are the dashing rebellious heroes, constructing all sorts of machines to support and get attention for their cause. It’s very clear that they have a ‘magic’ of their own – the way they can manipulate different elements to create machines Verity’s never encountered before.
However, the story isn’t all black and white – Verity finds the ‘story telling’ (lying) aspects of the engineers to be distasteful at best and harmful at worst. On the other hand, she really likes her employer and the children she works with. Part of the ‘greys’ in the story come from Verity herself, who’s hiding a secret about who she is from all the people around her.
This was a really fun romp of a story. It looks like it’s the first in a series and I really, really hope that’s the case as I’m thoroughly looking forward to reading more about Verity and the world she lives in.
A lot of future-set fiction deals with issues of resource shortages and rationing. Lifespan of Starlight continues this idea, but joins it to a nastyA lot of future-set fiction deals with issues of resource shortages and rationing. Lifespan of Starlight continues this idea, but joins it to a nasty habit of Australian society to insist that resources should be kept for the ‘right’ people. In this case, the ‘right’ people are those born in approved situations – primarily married citizen couples. Scout is an illegal, living her life in hiding with her mother and surviving through tricks, hacking and sharing her mother’s rations. Then she comes across a dying woman in one of her hiding spots and is able to take the woman’s identity chip – giving her an identity – and access to resources – in society for the first time.
However, it doesn’t take long to discover that the dying woman had some secrets of her own, including the ability to jump through time. Scout finds herself involved with a group of teenagers fascinated by time jumping, getting more and more involved in their dangerous risk taking behaviours.
There was an awful lot going on in this book – along with Scout dealing with suddenly ‘being’ a legal citizen and the time jumping adventures, there’s getting into a competitive schooling system and the politics of which people are considered important to society. Additionally, there’s an overwhelming sense of a totalitarian and aggressive government, complete with almost constant surveillance. It’s a lot to juggle as a reader, but I think it is held together successfully most of the time.
There’s been some talk recently that Young Adult books are ‘over’ science fiction/fantasy/apocalyptic stories. I don’t think that’s the case, nor do I think realistic Young Adult books ever went away – there’s plenty of John Green fans out there existing in the same world as Hunger Games fans. Sometimes they’re even the same people. What a lot of Young Adult speculative fiction does particularly well is talk about political issues which impact people who aren’t even allowed to vote on them. In these books the reader sees real life political issues taken to a heightened level as well as the inevitable consequences on young people. Lifespan of Starlight deals with people being labelled as ‘illegal’ and the consequences of dehumanising people. It looks at how we might have to deal with resource shortages. It raises questions of how we determine the futures of young people. These issues can be raised in ‘realistic’ YA, but not to this level – there is room for both and we – as reader, reviewers and commentators should loudly dismiss any notion that there isn’t.
Lifespan of Starlight wasn’t perfect. Some of the characters felt more like stereotypes than fully formed characters. And I really disliked the ending – finding it almost too neat to be satisfying. But there’s something terribly engaging about this book, and the ideas in it are utterly worth thinking on after the book is finished. It’s great to see such an interesting book added to the other fabulous YA being published in Australia – I really hope it gets the recognition it deserves.