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Benang: From the Heart
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Benang: From the Heart

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  201 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
Oceanic in its rhythms and understanding, brilliant in its use of language and image, moving in its largeness of spirit, compelling in its narrative scope and style, this intriguing journey is a celebration and lament—of beginning and return, of obliteration and recovery, of silencing, and of powerful utterance. Both tentative and daring, it speaks to the present and a pos ...more
Paperback, 502 pages
Published August 1st 1999 by Fremantle Press (first published January 1st 1999)
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James Baldwin once said that there are no white people, only people who think they are white. (James Baldwin, 'On being "white" and other lies' reprinted in David Roediger (ed.), Black on White: Black Writers on What it Means to be White).

So one could say, then, that to think of oneself as white is fantasmatic? If whiteness is a cultural "ideal", it can not be achieved only approached - never arrived at. What then of Aboriginality? Of other shades?.

Harley the central character in Benang stumbl
I wrote this review back in 2002 when I read this book but have just posted it to my blog because I'm currently reading the author's second book (That Deadman Dancing) and I thought other readers might be interested.

I see this review as a bit naive now, but I'm sharing it anyway because there don't seem to be any reviews of the book online and it's better than nothing (I hope)!

So, from my reading journal of September 2002, here it is:

This is a most interesting and challenging book, the sort of f
Joey Diamond
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You know how some things are so complex that answers will only annoy you and insult many who know more?
no answers here and once I stopped struggling to understand who everyone was and what was happening I realised how this is the perfect book about assimilation, protection, dispossession, family, knowledge, settlement and everything else that a Nyoongar might want to tell you about southwestern australia. Needless to say it's brutal and sad.
superb novel of aboriginal experience in western (southwestern?) Australia. it is not pretty and i think we all know what happened, as it did in Georgia, Nevada, Idaho, Texas, Sonora, Bolivia, new guinea,
why does this list go on and on? i want to read more by Kim Scott.
Dec 30, 2010 rated it liked it
A story spanning generations of a Nyoongar family through white settlement. Their treatment by whites, even whites who are family (often through the routine rape of Aboriginal women) is abhorrent. Ern was a hideous character throughout. And yet this story is much more about identity, and how the young narrator Harley, born out of his white grandfather Ern’s experiments to produce the ‘first white man’, ultimately finds his true place within his Nyoongar heritage. I enjoyed this exploration of id ...more
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Natasha Hurley-Walker
I found this pretty hard going to start with, but the book grew on me over time. What would have been hugely helpful was a family tree, but I realised as I read that I would be best off drawing one out myself, following the narrator's journey in discovering his ancestry.

I enjoyed the aspects of magical realism, the wonderful picture painted of the Australian landscape, and the honesty of the story, told by an unreliable and damaged but earnest narrator. I appreciated (enjoyed is hardly the right
Apr 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This book was extremely difficult to read. Firstly, the subject matter is very confronting; secondly, the book keeps jumping between time periods, making it hard to keep track, and lastly, the main character floats, as if gravity did not apply to him, which made it very difficult for me to assimilate the goings on as real.
Leanne Clegg
Jun 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Neville argues that the 'breeding out of colour' by careful control of part-Aboriginal people - where they lived, whom they married - would ultimately lead to the day where we could 'forget there were Aborigines in Australia.' Could there be a book more essential to the reading lists of White Australia, who grew up under the exclusive singularity of the policy of the same name.
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
All Australians should know this history. Especially those of us who are white.

Benang hurts, Benang bleeds. It seeps out the painful truth of our nation through its pages.

We must listen, we must look back.
Kirat Kaur
May 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you want a good read of the lives of aboriginal and especially mixed-race aboriginal people and their day-to-day struggles in a changing Western Australian landscape, and are sick of colonialist narratives, this is the perfect book. Kim Scott writes beautifully.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A complex, compelling and lyrical story that every Australian should read. Harrowing depictions of racism and genocide but so very full of heart and soul. The sort of book I would read again which is something I rarely do.
Billie Pritchett
May 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Kim Scott's Benang: From the Heart is a book I so desperately wanted to love. It's fiction that relies on actual historical family documents to spin a yarn about being the first 'white man' in a family of Australian aborigines. His family's goal was to 'breed the black out' so that their family could come to enjoy the privileges that white Australians enjoyed. This should make for a compelling story, but it's a very confusing book. The prose is said to be beautiful but it's slow and ponderous. I ...more
Peter Mathews
Kim Scott writes quite beautifully, and that is the most obvious strength of his prose. The political and historical critique he makes here of the treatment of the Indigenous peoples is also a pressing and valid theme. Together, however, these elements are not enough to make a good novel.

Where Scott is particularly weak is his inability to create a coherent plot. I don't mind a disjointed but cleverly-planned story-line, such as you find in, say, Zadie Smith's White Teeth. The narrative of Benan
Dimity Bryant
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every Australian should read this book
Kent Quaney
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Fascinating topic, but dense and difficult to read, mostly because of a cast of dozens and dozens of characters who drift in and out of the story, and a plodding high-literary writing style that highlights the worst aspects of that affectation. Also, the magical realism element in the present day story line feels strained and odd, as the episodes set in the past are grounded in realism. A fair read if you're interested in Australian history and the tragic fate of the native Australian race, but ...more
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Often confusing as the history and family tree is presented in fragments, out of chronological order and from varying points of view.

Author's style often appears that his statements are simple, but this is a mistaken view as often there is much more meaning behind the words. Often bare, exposed and understated this has a powerful impact resulting in the reader being shocked once he comes to his own realisation as to what really is being communicated eg incest, genocide, loss of identity
May 19, 2012 rated it liked it
20012-05-20 -- I found the family tree hard to follow. Many characters and it was difficult to distinguish between them. Appreciated the lyrical landscape description.
Jun 28, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting book about Aboriginal culture and history. Very confusing to absorb in some places but otherwise a good read.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite Kim Scott book.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Took me a while to get into this - but am approximately half way through and loving it. It's dark, haunting, terrifying, beautiful, lyrical.

I couldn't finish it. Too sad. Too hard. Broke my heart.
Jul 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Hard to follow the storyline or really get to know individual characters, but Harley's family as a whole is unforgettable. And I loved the floating aspect: unexpected and spot-on symbolic.
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Aug 13, 2015
David Brown
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Oct 28, 2017
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May 04, 2015
Martin Chambers
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Apr 24, 2017
Claire G.
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Oct 07, 2017
Rhiannon Floyd
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May 17, 2015
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Aug 25, 2011
Alison Byrne
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Oct 07, 2017
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Born in 1957, Kim Scott's ancestral Noongar country is the south-east coast of Western Australia between Gairdner River and Cape Arid. His cultural Elders use the term Wirlomin to refer to their clan, and the Norman Tindale nomenclature identifies people of this area as Wudjari/Koreng. Kim's professional background is in education and the arts. He is the author of two novels, True Country and Bena ...more