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.