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Jack Charles: Born-again Blakfella

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  739 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Jack Charles has worn many hats throughout his life: actor, cat burglar, musician, heroin addict, activist, even Senior Victorian Australian of the Year. But the title he’s most proud to claim is that of Aboriginal Elder.

Stolen from his mother and placed into institutional care when he was only a few months old, Uncle Jack was raised under the government’s White Australia
Paperback, First, 256 pages
Published August 20th 2019 by Penguin Australia
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  739 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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As soon as I heard Jack Charles on the podcast Conversation with Richard Fidler I went straight online to my local library and reserved this memoir.
Read it in one sitting. A compelling read of this lovable ol' rogue and National Treasure's life.
To say he's a survivor all right, is probably a understating it, just a little bit. He admits himself, that with what he's been through it's a bit of a miracle he is still with us, just shows that we are the lucky ones.
He's a born storyteller and orato
I have read memoirs of famous actors, thieves, heroin users and survivors of the stolen generations before, but never in the same volume. Jack Charles' extraordinary life makes this gripping stuff. Many of the themes are dark, but Charles' uses humour and self-deprecation to set the reader at some ease, while talking about the very real trauma and reverberating effects of his childhood abuse - both of the individual kind, and the systemic.
Charles' personality doesn't always translate with full p
Jo-Anne King
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Listening to Jack Charles read this audiobook just about winded me in some parts. He's same age as my dad and they both spent most of their lives in Melbourne - in very different circles - but it helped me place everything in space and time which I think made it a very powerful read for me. ...more
Alison Mia
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“We need a treaty now, to start a real process of reconciliation.”

“As an elder, I hope to be a glorious reminder of my people’s culture, our place of belonging, our kinship, community, and connection.”

This memoir is very impactful, and everyone in Australia should give it a read. Uncle Jack Charles doesn’t pull any punches with the description of his life story: being a member of the stolen generation, the pain of being pulled away from his culture and his family, the abuse he suffered as a chi
Catherine Campbell
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I could hear Uncle Jack reading this to me as I read. Incredible story.
Justine Holmes
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
Get the audio version if you can. It’s so great to hear Uncle Jacks voice tell his own story.
Jacks candour will have you laughing in stitches, and crying mere moments later. As he says in Chapter 1, "...those were some of the fun times that were had there, right alongside the dark moments". He doesn't shy away from the tough stuff, but he doesn't dwell there either. The 233 pages of this book are a brief glimpse into the life of Jack Charles, and so enthralling are these pages that I read it in one sitting! He is a national treasure, and I look forward to seeking out more of his work <3 ...more
Maree Kimberley
Loved this book. I was lucky enough to see Jack Charles at the 2019 Brisbane Writers Festival. What an entertainer & storyteller! And this memoir is a compelling story of the two worlds he lives in, often simultaneously. Both heartbreaking and inspiring, I found Jack’s book hard to put down. It is a story that will stay with me for a long time.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m not usually a memoir fan, but I was happy to give this a go when I found it as a library audio, and I’m so glad I did. The self narration is fantastic- Jack Charles really does have a brilliant voice, and it felt like he was just having a jolly good yarn with his audience. The story itself is well told and shared with honesty and authenticity (particularly the first half) and tells of both the devastating reality and incredible resilience of survivors of the stolen generation with humour and ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book has felt like sitting down with Uncle Jack Charles, yarning and learning, laughing & crying along the way.
A man from the Stolen Generation in Australia, this memoir is one of discovering family and yourself, and shines a light on the casual and systemic racism faced by Aboriginal Australians still today.
I highly recommend giving it a read.
Sarah Jane
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary memoir by an extraordinary Australian. Jack Charles writes in a conversational, relaxed style, that makes you feel like you are sitting have a yarn with him. He speaks with honesty and humility, as he juxtaposes the political and social history of Australia alongside the various life events and experiences that shaped who he is today. He shows a deep love, compassion, and empathy for those who struggle with addiction, sexuality, racism, imprisonment, and abuse. A national treasu ...more
Peter Stuart
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some peoples lives are remarkable journeys, Jack Charles is one of those people, both from his own doing and unfortunately because some of it was thrust upon him by others as a child of the Stolen Generation.

In sharing his journey to where he finds himself now, Jack takes us along on a somewhat black humour orientated path, yet at the same time offers glimpses and insights into some of the trauma he has endured and suffered through over the +60years encased in this work.

A well recognised face in
Anna Davidson
Reading this book was such a treat; it felt like I was sitting down with Uncle Jack for a cuppa, having a yarn and listening to his story. And what a story it is; one filled with tragedy and heartache, but mostly, this is a story about an extraordinary person who demonstrates incredible resilience and generosity. A story filled with hope, compassion and wisdom. Thank you for sharing your life (so far) with us, Uncle Jack.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Charles tells his story straight-up, all laid out on the table, his heart on his sleeve. Everyone is dealt a different hand in life, but Charles has definitely made the most of a very poor one. Good on him.
Millie May
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-reads
An incredible story about an incredible man. Thank you for sharing your story Uncle Jack
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
How to you put nearly 80 years of a life into nearly 250 pages of a book? To tell all the details of Uncle Jack Charles' life, this could be a whole series, instead, this book contains highlights and lowlights of a fascinating life.

I bought a copy of this book during the 2019 Festival of Stories on Phillip Island where I heard Uncle Jack Charles speak and share part of his story.

As part of the Stolen Generation, the consequences were far reaching for Uncle Jack. Many aspects of his story were s
Bronwen Heathfield
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a life! What a story! I found this fascinating from beginning to end. I saw the discussion with Anh Do and Uncle Jack Charles as his portrait was painted and was intrigued to learn more. This book filled in the spaces. It is sad yet uplifting. Such resilience and courage - my admiration for the strength of indigenous people of Australia just continues to grow. On a personal level the fact that Jack grew up not far physically from me but so distant in terms of experience was fascinating plus ...more
Georgia Rose
Jack Charles can tell a story that's for sure.

Listening to Jack's famous voice reading out the audiobook version of this tale was an absolute treat.

Jack was taken from his mother at a young age and put into the infamous Box Hill Boys Home. Like many boys at the home, he was abused as a child and imprisoned as an adult. This book looks back over 76 years of Jack's life and plucks out the most extraordinary stories, the good, the bad, the ugly and the hilarious.

If you read it too - you'll find o
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an amazingly open and honest story of the highs and lows of his life by Jack Charles.
Jack was taken from his mother at only 4 months old as part of the "stolen generation". From there he was placed in a Boys Home where he suffered physical and sexual abuse. As he grew older he turned to a life of crime and was incarcerated several times, while also succumbing to alcohol and drug addiction. During these times he managed to work as an actor. He was able to eventually find his mother, a brothe
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome read. What a fantastic character Jack Charles is. This story was a very honest and interesting story. Sadness, from being part of the stolen generation and being a part of a boys home where he was treated horribly. But then Jack tells about parts of his life with such honesty like being a cat burglar, a drug and alcohol user. I laughed and cried through this book. I felt like I could not put this book down. What an honour that Jack Charles chose to share his story. Do yourself ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a life.
So much resilience and positivity, forgiveness, introspection and insight in this story of an incredible life. Yes, maybe he was a bit lucky, maybe he was ‘in the right place at the right time’ but only such an extraordinary character could have lived through these experiences and remained upbeat and inspired. And inspiring!
Some passages in here to take note of on opportunity, equity, equality, racism, identity and ‘ownership’. Absolutely heart rending. Beautifully told. I am so
Lesley Truffle
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jack Charles – Aboriginal Elder, film and stage actor, potter, indigenous activist and former cat burglar – is a brilliant storyteller. His gift of writing from the heart, provided him with cachet and respect when imprisoned. He would sit down with illiterate inmates, discuss what was required and then pen deeply felt letters to the prisoner’s loved ones.

Jack’s life was derailed when he was stolen at the age of four months from his mother, Blanchie Charles, and made a ward of the state. Jack was
Natalie Skiller
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I could hear Uncle Jack as I read this. I should listen to the audio version but I struggle with my hearing so it's something I'm yet to explore.
I love Uhcle Jack. He is a resilient survivor who oozes humour and confidence. He has this way of getting you to pay attention. You are then under his spell. He is one of the most respected Australians but has not had an easy life.
That is what makes his story heartbreaking but beautiful.

Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be super engaging. Jack Charles is a member of the stolen generation and throughout this story talks about the significance of that on his life.

He writes with humour, joy, and devastating honesty. In some ways this book was easy to read because of Jack’s tone but it also had me crying. A lot.

A must read.

CW: child sexual abuse, institutional child abuse, incarceration, rape, police abuse against Indigenous people
Kirsten Marr
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The story of a person that has led a life that has taken him to some extremes and also a search for identity and family.
As he says it’s also about connections people have or seek out to piece “together the formation of who and what I am” and discovering the connections and information that had been stolen as a child taken from his family.
This is an entertaining book but also touching and very real.
Also having spoken to Uncle Jack you can hear him speaking as you read the words.
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’ve listened to this audiobook twice, it is beautifully narrated by the man himself - Jack Charles.
This is a story that every one, particularly those of us living in Australia should listen to.
It is rich in truth, honesty, and personal growth. All the whilst navigating a system that was truly stacked against him, and full of injustice and trauma.
Such a tender and beautiful story. No review can do it justice.
Allen Tiller
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cannot remember the last time I read a book in one sitting ( or when i last had the time to do so), but this evening I thoroughly enjoyed being engrossed in the life of the amazing Jack Charles.
A fascinating man who has led a tumultuous life and come out the other side with wisdom, pride and humility.

An Aussie legend.
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jack Charles is an absolute delight and a national treasure who has helped us to connect to our brutal past here in Australia while making us chuckle and shedding a tear along the way. He has managed to capture the hearts of so many of us. This book flows so well and there is not a word wasted in it, much like his talent on the stage, it will not disappoint.
Lizzy O'shea
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a treat to get to read about Uncle Jack Charles' life in his own words and voice. An important record of the experience/impact of the Stolen Generation, Australia's prison system, institutional abuse and colonisation/racism in Aus, alongside windows into the world of theatre, Melbourne life, family and kinship. ...more
Cassandra Jane
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I went into this not knowing who Jack Charles was and came out with great respect. It was a challenging read at times hearing the first-hand account of the stolen generation and the subsequent life events. Peppered with light humour and heartbreak, it is truly a tale of resilience at the hands of absolutely unfair mistreatment.
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Jack Charles is an Australian actor, musician, potter, and Aboriginal elder.

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