I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that there is a rash of books about refugees suddenly available on the Australian book market. This month’s AustI don’t think it’s just a coincidence that there is a rash of books about refugees suddenly available on the Australian book market. This month’s Australian Book Review includes a review by Peter Mares Confessions of a People-Smuggler by Dawood Amiri (Scribe) and of The Undesirables: Inside Nauru by Mark Isaacs (Hardie Grant). (Sorry, the ABR site is pay-walled.) Another title, Refugees: Why Seeking Asylum is Legal and Australia’s Policies are Not by Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong is reviewed at Readings, and no doubt there are others. I myself recently reviewed The People Smuggler by Robin de Crespigny. I think that there are a good many Australians who are appalled by Australia’s current policies and since the prospects of change look quite hopeless at the moment, it seems that about the only thing one can do is to try to counter the disinformation and hard-heartedness of the tabloid media through books.
There seems to be two strands of reportage tackling this subject. There are the exposés about the current situation, aiming to penetrate the veil of government secrecy about what’s going on behind the shrieking headlines, and then there are books like the one I’ve just read, Surviving Year Zero, My Four years under the Khmer Rouge. Books like this aim to show the Australian public that they have nothing to fear from people who seek asylum here: people who flee their homes as refugees have escaped unimaginable horrors but have since proven themselves to be worthwhile Australian citizens.
Sovannora Ieng’s story begins when he is just fourteen, as the Khmer Rouge arrive in the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. His story traces the brutal four years during which his family were, like millions of others, uprooted from their homes, forced to work in the fields
I really enjoyed this book! Yami Lester (b. c1949) is a Yankunytjatjara man from northern South Australia. According to Wikipedia, his most significanI really enjoyed this book! Yami Lester (b. c1949) is a Yankunytjatjara man from northern South Australia. According to Wikipedia, his most significant contribution to indigenous rights was helping gain recognition for the atomic tests at Maralinga and an acknowledgement for the Aboriginal people who had been affected. An important achievement that led to the McLelland Royal Commission in 1985 - but this most modest of men grants it a mere ten pages or so in his autobiography. The rest of his book is a vivid picture of his extraordinary life which reminded me of Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life.
As a boy Yami lived a bush life in camps in the area around Coober Pedy. His family travelled around from station to station getting itinerant work, living on bush tucker when the rations ran out. At Mt Willoughby Station, the kids were warned off the rubbish dump by the Aboriginal women:
‘Awai! Your father’s going to hunt you away from there’. That was my white father, Dick Lander, the manager of Mt Willoughby Station. ‘You gotta come this way,’ the women said, ‘and we’ll give you some food.’ So we left the rubbish dump, but we didn’t go to the house, we walked to the creek close by and waited until they brought out some food that my father gave to them: eggs and cake and different food.
That was as close as I got to my white father. I would like to have known him. But we couldn’t have talked because I didn’t have any English. I just had my own language Yankunytjatjara. It would have been something, that, to have talked with him. Anyway, we did share something: he didn’t want me to go to the rubbish dump! (p. 3)
That short excerpt is an indication of the character of this most entertaining storyteller: not an ounce of self-pity and always ready to look for the best in any situation. He was soon to need both those traits to overcome the challenge that defined his life ...more
This is a fascinating autobiography: I’ve never read one by a doctor before and the story of this man’s life and achievements was really good to read.This is a fascinating autobiography: I’ve never read one by a doctor before and the story of this man’s life and achievements was really good to read.
Professor Earl Owen spent his professional life pioneering techniques in microsurgery, and you may recall seeing in the media some of his more high profile achievements such as reattaching fingers, doing hand transplants in France, reversing vasectomies and operating to repair foetal abnormalities in utero.
I borrowed this book because I've just received a new book by Fiona Kidman. It's called Infinite Air and it's about New Zealand's most significant aviI borrowed this book because I've just received a new book by Fiona Kidman. It's called Infinite Air and it's about New Zealand's most significant aviatrix, Jean Batten. I thought it would be interesting to learn something about the history of Australian aviation prior to reading this new book. But truth be told, My God! It's a Woman is a bit of a disappointment. I did enjoy the first part, about Nancy Bird's childhood and early ambitions to fly. It was interesting to read about the barnstorming era and the opening up of the Aussie outback by courageous aviators of both sexes. It was also interesting to see how Nancy Bird overcame the disadvantages of her sex to achieve a whole stack of firsts, and how she went on to have a distinguished career in the service of aviation even when her barnstorming days were over. But the last part of the book degenerated into a terribly dull catalogue of female firsts. I understand her motivation: she was keen to redress the lack of recognition for women pilots in Australia and these chapters show that there were many remarkable women who did remarkable things. But there are only so many record-breaking feats that one can read about before the interest palls, and that's what happened. I just got sick of it: so-and-so was the first one to fly from such-and-such, over and over again, without the human interest to enliven it. So while I think this book, in its print form, would be a valuable resource for someone researching the history of aviation in Australia, I didn't find all of it very interesting to listen to......more
A ground-breaking book, still relevant today. To see my review and some suggestions for contemporary novels tackling similar issues, please visit httpA ground-breaking book, still relevant today. To see my review and some suggestions for contemporary novels tackling similar issues, please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201......more
Fishing in the Styx is the second volume of Ruth Park’s autobiography, read with great sensitivity by Anna Volska on this audiobook. It is fascinatingFishing in the Styx is the second volume of Ruth Park’s autobiography, read with great sensitivity by Anna Volska on this audiobook. It is fascinating to listen to the evolution of one of our best-loved writers, writing about living in a 1960s Sydney unrecognisable today.
Ruth Park was born into poverty in about 1923 in New Zealand, and came to have a career in Australia only by chance. She was about to embark from Sydney to take up a job with a newspaper in San Fransisco when all shipping was suspended after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. A fledgling romance with the Australian writer D’Arcy Niland blossomed, and the pair decided that they would make a living as writers, surviving perilously from week to week, juggling finances and writing projects and the children that inevitably came. She writes about their struggle with humour and optimism but the sense that the light went out of her life with D’Arcy’s premature death is tangible. Please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201... to read the rest of this review. ...more
This is a compelling story of endurance, courage and determination on the most inhospitable continent on earth. Mawson's recount tells of the wonder,This is a compelling story of endurance, courage and determination on the most inhospitable continent on earth. Mawson's recount tells of the wonder, excitement and horror of early Antarctic exploration in vivid detail; today's reader can only marvel at how these scientists were able to manage living conditions in such a hostile environment and to set the standard of scientific achievement for future expeditions. The first part of the tale covers how in 1912 a team of 18 men set up a base and learned to manage living in almost continuous blizzard conditions and winds of unimaginable strength. With self-deprecating humour Mawson explains how the Hut was built, a formidable task in itself; how they cooked, cleaned and entertained themselves; what they wore to protect themselves against the bitter cold; how they took care of the sledge dogs; and - with a light touch for the general reader - how they undertook the job of gathering scientific and cartographic data. Using equipment and protective clothing that nearly a century later seems primitive, they were entirely self-sufficient - the ship Aurora having departed for its own perilous return journey through the icy waters to Hobart, Tasmania. This section of the book is immensely readable, but it is the story of Mawson's epic sledge that is unputdownable. After the men had spent nearly a year in the Hut, in November the weather improved, and the men split up into small teams to explore the area further afield. Mawson, Mertz and Ninnis set out together, but only Mawson returned, having lost his companions in appalling circumstances. He tells the tragic story of their deaths and his journey back to the base so vividly that it is unforgettable. In Adelaide, South Australia, the museum has a special permanent exhibition about Mawson, Australia's greatest polar explorer. Viewing the little wooden sledge that he used for his solo trek across the ice, brings into perspective the enormity of this man's battle against the elements. His refusal to give into despair is inspiring. The book comes with photos, maps and diagrams, as well as supplementary narratives from the other men on the expedition. Highly recommended. Cross posted at Library Thing http://www.librarything.com/work/2311... AND another review focussing more on Mawson's heroic journey at http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/200... Yes, I really, really like this book!...more
I don’t usually read memoirs, but Anna Goldworthy’s Piano Lessons attracted me from the moment I first heard about it. When I was a little girl I hadI don’t usually read memoirs, but Anna Goldworthy’s Piano Lessons attracted me from the moment I first heard about it. When I was a little girl I had wanted to be a pianist and a writer: Goldsworthy is both and I wanted to know how she did it…
It wasn’t just talent, though she has it (and I never did). It wasn’t just hours of dedicated practice, though she realised long before I did that desultory efforts with the piano are not enough for success. Her story traces the elusive path of dreams and ambition, and it reveals a steely determination to achieve a succession of personal goals that would leave any life coach breathless in her wake.
Gifted in every way, Goldsworthy set herself one target after another: academically, a scholarship to Pembroke, top marks and dux of school; musically, mastering a progression of composers, collecting A+ exam results, prizes in performance and a scholarship to the Texan Christian University. She tells this story with honesty and self-deprecating humour, sharing her earnest adolescent efforts to be like the other girls, her ineptitude behind the wheel of a car, and the compulsive thought processes that guide her through the terrors of rehearsal and performance. To read the rest of my review see http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/200......more
I was expecting to enjoy this book because I like Mirka Mora’s free-spirited art works, but it was a disappointment. I found it difficult to follow heI was expecting to enjoy this book because I like Mirka Mora’s free-spirited art works, but it was a disappointment. I found it difficult to follow her train of thought in these chaotic ramblings… The constant name-dropping really irritated me. Of course a notable painter like Mora is going to know many notable people, but there are 10 pages of famous names in the index! Most of the time there’s seems to be no relevance in mentioning these people, but that may be partly because of the erratic way that Mora has put this book together. She explains (on p190) that her first efforts at writing her autobiography consisted in copying parts of her diary, and that is exactly what most of it looks like. She says elsewhere that her editor was concerned about her not meeting the deadline and I suspect that if time was tight, he/she decided to try and make a virtue of the muddle and hope that those interested in the book would consider it ‘artistic’. (Mora herself alludes to Proust, hinting that she is writing in a sort of stream of consciousness as Proust did, but having read Proust myself, I can’t agree….) (Would Proust have written four lines about being molested on a train, followed by a line about wearing a little black Parisian suit? (p78). I think not).
I read everything I could find by Nevil Shute when I first discovered him, and I really enjoyed his fiction, so it was disappointing to discover thatI read everything I could find by Nevil Shute when I first discovered him, and I really enjoyed his fiction, so it was disappointing to discover that I would not have liked this man one little bit! ...more