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The Yield

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Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.

August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.

Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published July 2, 2019

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About the author

Tara June Winch

12 books517 followers
Tara June Winch is an Australian (Wiradjuri) author. Her first novel, Swallow the Air won several literary awards. In 2008, she was mentored by Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka as part of the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. After The Carnage, her second book was published in 2016 to critical acclaim. Her third, The Yield, was first published in 2019, to commercial and critical success and took out three prizes including Book of the Year at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Voss Prize, and the Prime Minister's Literary Award. She resides in France with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,226 reviews
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,109 followers
July 16, 2020
Winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award

The Yield is that rare thing: a 5-star stunner from the very first lines. It combines history, heritage and the Wiradjuri language with a moving narrative and unfussy, yet often lyrical, prose.

We follow August Gondiwindi, a young woman returning to her home town of Massacre Plains after the death of her grandfather. She learns that he had been compiling a dictionary of the Wiradjuri language, but it's nowhere to be found. Meanwhile her widowed grandmother is being forced to pack up their home to make way for a huge mine.

The novel then alternates between August's story, Poppy Gondiwindi's deeply personal dictionary entries, and a mysterious letter from 1915, written by the German reverend who first established an Aboriginal mission in Massacre Plains.

The Yield is the latest in a recent spate of excellent books bringing new understanding of Aboriginal culture and identity to a wider audience. Too Much Lip delved into contemporary family dynamics with fully drawn, true-to-life characters (and a great deal of humour); Dark Emu is the non-fiction book that opened up much of the anthropology, archeology and history that Winch draws upon here; The Yield adds another facet by exploring, through a fictional narrative, the importance of language to culture.

Language is a unique lens: the things and concepts deemed important enough to bestow with names can be so revealing. Through Poppy Gondiwindi's dictionary, we learn his own personal story, as well as the traditions, customs and beliefs of his ancestors, the Gondiwindi mob. We see how the personal cannot be extricated from the historical, the cultural. That each of us contains within us everything that has gone before.

Winch has done a superb job of maintaining a fictional narrative through these dictionary entries; reading them always feels as if Poppy is yarning with you in his warm, kindly voice, never like an academic exercise. As she points out in her Author's Note, Australia's indigenous languages are among the world's most endangered - her novel not only records Wiradjuri words, it rouses and fortifies them, through Poppy they come to life.

A remarkable novel that I hope to see on next year's Stella and Miles Franklin lists.
Profile Image for Beata.
714 reviews1,088 followers
August 15, 2020
Ten stars out of five! What an amazing novel!
It took me just two days to read/listen to it, or should I say two days and one night? The narration was a bit complex at first, but after a while I found it most suitable for this book. Recently I have several books tackling the cruel treatment towards the Native Australians in the past and the negligence of their heritage in modern times. 'The Yield' adds one important aspect: the language that should be preserved.
The narration comes from three voices. The first one is August Gondiwindi, a young woman who returns to Australia, having spent ten years in Great Britain, for the funeral of his Pop Albert. The second narrator is Albert, who relates his family and people's history while working on a dictionary of their language. And there is also a voice from the past, Reverend Greenleaf, who was of German origin, and who in 1915 wrote a letter to a man of power in which he described his roots and his mission to help the Aborigines. His voice is most poignant, since trying to set up a permanent settlement and offer security, all Reverend Greenleaf experienced from the authorities was disdain and indifference.
This is a novel that moved me in many ways: unhappy childhood marked by a tragic events, cruelty and lack of respect experienced by the indigenous inhabitants, greed that stands behind mindless exploitation of land and destruction of natural environment, and the need to preserve the language. I can understand this need perfectly as Poland had been wiped out from political maps for 123 years, and what united the Poles then was the language and the need to preserve it despite bans, especially in Prussia and Russia, aiming at eradicating Polish language. Albert prepares the dictionary, and while saying the words, explains each one by talking about the culture and history of his ancestors.
There is one special Polish accent for which I would like to thank Ms Winch.
Hardly ever can a review give justice to a novel, I can only say that, yes, there were tears of which I am not ashamed, and for these emotions I am grateful to Ms Winch.
I read somewhere that Ms Winch is going to donate some percentage from the royalties to establishing language lessons. I am happy that having bought this special novel I will have my part in this noble cause.
Please, consider adding this novel to your trl :)
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,277 reviews2,213 followers
July 27, 2020
This stunning novel blends three distinct narratives, a structure using three different ways in the telling of this story of place, of history, of a people, of an intimate story of a family, of loss of people and land, of their heritage, of their very identity. This was an impactful book for me in several ways. From a historical and cultural perspective, I knew little of Australia’s history and of the Aboriginal people, so it was a learning experience. I was moved by the story of this fictional family whose experiences reflect this history and culture and brings it to life. I was heartbroken for their losses, heartened by their love for each other. From a literary standpoint, I found the structure to be unique and each of the three narratives captured my interest in a different way, an amazing piece of writing.

Albert/Poppy Gondiwindi is dead now but comes alive through the words in the dictionary he is writing, not just the definitions of these words in the native language of the Wiradjuti, but in telling of stories through each word. We come to know the land, the people, their lives, a way of life, his philosophy. There’s an element of time travel with his ancestors, a mechanism the author brilliantly uses to portray culture and history, as well as his personal family story. A second narrative focuses on August, his granddaughter, who returns home from England bringing the story to a more present time, when the mining companies are taking over the land, her Nana’s home, trying to erase their land rights, their existence. Her coming home brings back the past as well, with memories of her traumatic childhood and the heartbreaking memory of Jedda, her sister missing at the age of nine. The third narrative is told in letters of Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf written in 1915 speaking of camps of Aborigines, his mission, his thoughts on the people, highlighting the atrocities committed against women and young girls, and the separation of children from their families, their home.

The treatment of the Aborigines was sadly reminiscent of the treatment of slaves in US, children being separated from their parents and I thought of Native Americans ripped of their land, suffering the injustices imposed by white men. There is so much here in this beautifully written story - the importance of family in times of need, the importance of language in defining a people, the importance of recognizing the injustices suffered by the Native people of this place even in current times.

I received a copy of this book from HarperVia through Edelweiss.

Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,398 reviews801 followers
July 25, 2020
5★ - UPDATE! Just won the Miles Franklin Award!!

“younger sister - minhi
. . .
‘The family trees of people like us are just bushes now, aren’t they?’ he said. ‘Someone has been trimming them good.’ I wouldn’t ever forget these words because they sounded like sad poems. And I guess that’s a true thing, because all the years I’ve lived I’ve lost so many parts of the people that make me up. My mummy, my daddy, my cousins, and my younger sister, my minhi. When I was little and in the Boys’ Home I never forgot our people on the river.”

Albert “Poppy” Gondiwindi is remembering what an old stockman told him when he was a very young man working on a property. Albert is the focus of the book, an Aboriginal grandfather who has been collecting language for a dictionary before it is all lost.

The book opens with his granddaughter August flying home from London for his funeral, feeling guilty for having been away. She dreams of him on the flight.

“He [Poppy] was talking about a different land though, not the one August had known for over a decade – in the grasslands forever wet, foreign forests of elm, ash, sycamore, hazel, and in the white willows that dipped into quiet canals. Where smaller birds in secondary colours flocked together and fires never licked. . . .

She knew that she had once known the beloved land where the sun slapped the barren earth with an open palm and knew too that she would return for the funeral. Go back full with shame for having left...”

Winch uses August for the current timeline, sharing some of her memories. She uses Albert to introduce words and to reminisce about his childhood, relate the cultural history he's learned, and talk about his time-travel. He says he sees spirit people and moves through time and space. He has been writing his dictionary, and each word he introduces is followed by a story and a memory, like the one at the beginning here.

The third point of view is the Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf (originally Grunblatt) who arrived from Prussia as a boy in 1841. In 1880, he opened “Prosperous Lutheran Mission for the Native inhabitants” and befriended the local Aboriginal people as best he knew how.

A fair bit of time is covered for these 500 acres known as Massacre. What a name, eh? It’s obvious why it was called that, and Reverend Greenleaf’s letters and diaries detail some of the horrors that the locals survived (or not) when the white people “settled” the land known as Ngurambang. The opening sentence of the book, by Albert, is:

“I was born on ‘Ngurambang’ – can you hear it? – ‘Ngu-ram-bang’. If you say it right it hits the back of your mouth and you should taste blood in your words. Every person around should learn the word for ‘country’ in the old language, the first language – because that is the way to all time, to time travel! You can go all the way back.”

[Winch refers to the back of the mouth or back of the throat several times, which I imagine is to stress the forcefulness of what someone is saying or wishing they could say. Like a roar from the depths of your soul - but that might be fanciful on my part.]

August’s grandmother, Elsie, and her Aunties and other relatives come and go, preparing for the funeral, and we gradually learn about what prompted August to travel and end up overseas. She is horrified when she discovers what they are up against with the company that’s moving in to mine tin and moving them out. She sees the DANGER signs on their pipes

“August wondered what it was that was a danger, she imagined gas compressed under the pipes, flammable dinosaur bones and coal stones, all the element codes of a periodic table rising. She imagined falling into the tin pit, ‘all this gone’, free-falling a kilometre below.”

I’ve heard a couple of interviews with the author, and while this isn’t said to be autobiographical, she also left school and home young, travelled extensively, and is now married, living in France. She worked with Dr Uncle Stan Grant, Sr. AM, a respected Wiradjuri elder who has been working on and saving language all his life. He is also the father of Stan Grant, whom we know as an author (Talking To My Country) and public figure. A little diversion under the spoiler tag.

August thinks a lot about her older sister, Jedda, who used to lead them in to all kinds of mischief and adventures. The both loved to dance to music. We know nothing about Jedda, but there is a wonderful scene where the gathered people see a Brolga (big native crane) land and dance, and she is riveted. It's quite long, so I'll tuck that under a spoiler tag, too.

It’s a remarkable blend of history, family, politics, and fierce loyalty and devotion. There is a map in the front and a dictionary in the back, although I can’t find some of the words in it that Poppy uses throughout the book. I’m sure I heard the author say something about that, but I don't remember where! There is, however, a good author’s note with more information.

She also said she knew she wanted to write a story about agriculture. Yield is a measure of what a crop produces. An acre may yield a few tons of grain. Yield might mean the dividend on an investment. Yield also means to give way, to give in, to give up. This book covers all of those things. Massacre is a wheat farm, and after the indigenous people were overcome and enslaved and gave up their own digging and planting, they became farm workers, and it is still a working farm.

I haven’t read the author’s acclaimed first book Swallow the Air, but it’s high time I did. I’m glad she’s helping to promote the cause of saving language. Both adults and children were beaten for using their own words, so many must have been lost. Here’s a map I may have shared before of Aboriginal language groups.

Map of Aboriginal Australia with approximate identification of groups

Here’s a link to a high-resolution image that you can enlarge to read, if you’re interested. The spellings of various mobs and languages vary a bit here and there from map to map, but that’s more an issue of English spelling than of the spoken word.

Link to high resolution map of Aboriginal Australia

There are some videos of Brolgas dancing. Forgive the initial ad:
Link to video of Brolgas

I LOVE this one - kids today, loud and proud in a Brolga dance!
Link to young people doing a Brolga performance

And whatever you do, read The Guardian article here about her stoush with Andrew Bolt in his what I call "They Aren't-Black-Enough" campaign against some Aboriginal artists.


I don't know if this podcast can be accessed outside of Australia, but it's a good interview with the author in August 2019, a long time before the award. https://www.betterreading.com.au/podc...
Profile Image for Nat K.
408 reviews148 followers
March 5, 2022
*** Winner of the Adelaide Festival Literature Award 2022***

*** Winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award 2020 ***

*** Winner of the Miles Franklin Award 2020 ***

*** Shortlisted for the 2020 Stella Prize ***

"Please don't be a victim Auggie..."

Reading this, I felt like my diaphragm was gripped in a vice. Like I was unable to breath properly. This is such an incredibly complex book. It is a rich story, that speaks of culture, displacement and love. 

Love of another. Love of of family. Love of country. Love of words.

A sense of disconnect jumped at me from these pages. That whether you are born somewhere or emigrate to a new land for whatever reason, it does not always mean that you will feel welcome, or that you belong.

The storytelling by Tara June Winch is artful. The way she meshes together stories across generations and non-related people is skillfully done. We hear the story for three different people, across various timelines.

Albert "Poppy" Gondiwindi has passed. He discovered a love of words as a young man. His dream to create a dictionary containing indigenous phrases of the Wiradjuri language has come to fruition. His hope being that the language will not be lost, and will live on after him. Through the dictionary's creation, we learn of his life along the (fictitious) Murrumby River, at the (aptly named) township of Massacre Plains. Each of the words entered into the dictionary evokes a memory, and the story behind that memory.

His prodigal granddaughter August "Auggie" returns home from London to attend his funeral, filled with remorse and grief. Auggie left Massacre Plains many years before. Her mornings in London begin with a coffee and two aspirin. Family tragedy and grief have made her question who she is, and what makes a person feel like they are at home. Perhaps returning to the place of her childhood, will help her find the answers she desperately seeks.

The Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf, originally of German origin (Grünblatt), arrives on Australia's shores in the early 1900s, to set up a mission. It's still a brave new world, very harsh, often cruel. Through his letters, we see the world through his eyes. The mistreatment of the native people, too often inhumane and inexcusable. It's so difficult for me to comprehend this type of behaviour. The discrimination and double standards. The fear and cruelty that still echoes today.

History, settlement, MABO, the stolen children, mining, jobs, the destruction of the environment, and the death of small country towns are all tackled here. This is a story about people. About retaining your culture and language, and being proud of it. About the acceptance of each other, and about the importance of identity.

Standouts for me were the gorgeous descriptions of nature and the countryside. How we're all really just a tiny wheel in a giant cog, and need to work together to keep it moving. To be respectful, to each other and the environment. 

The indigenous phrases and the putting together of Poppy's dictionary was a joy to read about. And I was particularly fortunate to have listened to the audio version of this book, so I actually got to hear these phrases pronounced correctly, rather than mumbling my way through them.

The narration by Tony Briggs brought the story to life, and the timbre of his voice was an absolute joy to listen to. Particularly hearing him pronounce the abovementioned phrases and words, was a stroke of luck for me.

This is only my second audio book, and another Aussie winner. Big shout out to Randwick City Library for having such a wonderful selection of titles to choose from.

Past, present and future are all here. To be considered and pondered over. Haunting.

“There are few worse things than memory, yet few things better.”
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,546 reviews24.6k followers
January 1, 2021
Tara June Winch writes a complex, powerful, far reaching multigenerational Australian novel that relates harrowing Aboriginal history, structured by its three perspectives, and the connections between the past, present and future. Part of the Wiradjuri tribe, Albert 'Poppy' Gondiwindi lives at Prosperous House, at the all too appropriately named Massacre Plain, by the Murrumby River. Aware that death is coming for him, he embarks on a quest to document the Wiradjuri language before it is lost, words that are inextricably linked to stories, traditions, concepts, history, culture, philosophy and belief systems. This is no small thing, words are at the heart of a culture, giving it power, meaning, and a sense of identity, and its importance can partly be gauged by the no holds barred historical efforts to obliterate Aboriginal language and culture, forbidding its use and practice, underpinned by harsh punitive measures to ensure compliance, policies buttressed by the taking of children from families, the taken children now referred to as 'the stolen generation'.

On her grandfather Poppy's death, August Gondiwindi travels from Britain to his funeral, weighed down by a strong sense of guilt and shame, with thoughts of her older sister, Jedda. She finds her grandmother facing eviction, and a mining company intent on taking their land, riding roughshod over their rights, questioning their legitimacy and existence. Finding it hard to reconcile the past and the present, and driven by her need to know family history, and fight the mining company, she learns of Poppy's dictionary of words and searches for artefacts. Poppy's personal history is revealed, his childhood, including the aboriginal relationship with time and space, the spirit people, dreaming and songlines. Letters from 1915 by the Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf document and acknowledge the unspeakable crimes committed against the Aboriginal population, so nightmarish that they have him questioning his faith.

The terrors, tragedies, grief, loss and trauma of the Aboriginal experience, the damning hidden Australian history, that includes land dispossession, enslavement, the sexual abuse, the hatred, the segregation, sacred land destructions, the exploitation, the stolen children, and the bare knuckle racism, has a much needed light shone upon it. However, there is light to be find in the hope and resilience of the Aborigine communities, the love, and the strength of family and community connections, highlighting the fight to expose the true history of Australia, so crucial in defining and determining a sense of identity, the critical importance of language, the past shaping the present and the future. This is a incredible heartbreaking, thought provoking, unforgettable, and necessary novel, history and the present masquerading as fiction, a must read that is both informative and educational. I hope that this brilliant novel receives the wide readership it so deserves. Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,924 reviews35.4k followers
August 9, 2020
August Goondiwindi was a young Indigenous woman. After time spent in the UK, she returned home, to Australia.
Her grandfather, Albert, ‘Poppy’, had recently died. He grew up in the 1930s.

August begins to re-connect with her past. ( all the sadness too)....lots of backstory about the poverty she endured- and memories of her mother and sister.

Albert had compiled a dictionary to memorize and maintain the language of his people. ( more fascinating than easily explained)...
Poppy wanted the language passed on.

We get history of the indigenous people, stories of white settlements, and an emotional experience of the horrid treatment of aborigines.

Racial injustice of all kinds seems -a vital important topic we must look at closely in 2020.

We’re introduced to mission life, a look at what was happening when there were righteous fights - when Albert’s homeland was being taken over by a mining company.

There were three connecting stories... told from three different perspectives - in three different timelines. I found it a little difficult to follow.....( eventually caught on)...

Its the ‘writing’ that ‘really’ stands out!!
It’s gorgeous’...
about language, culture, family, tragedy,resilience, and reconciliation—
honoring and celebrating the First Nations people.

The characters started to really came alive for me half way into the book.
The violence was intense though at times.
There was a scene between two men fighting... that puzzled my thoughts ‘a lot’.
The man on the ground smelled the blood on himself - it didn’t smell like his own blood...
Silly question? how do people know the difference from the smell of their own blood and of another’s?
I know - creepy thought ... but I wouldn’t have any idea!

This was my first book by Tara Winch...
I have another book by her-
“Swallow in the Air”....

I definitely look forward to reading - following more of the authors work.
Very glad to experience this talented Australian author.

Profile Image for Jen CAN.
475 reviews1,311 followers
October 18, 2020
Stories within stories. Much like the Russian nesting dolls.
August returns to Australia after her grandfather passed. Finds that the lands of Massacre Plain are being taken over by a tin mining corporation.
She also discovers her poppy was writing a dictionary of wiradjuri words, which transported his history and life on the plains and the rich culture of the people who lived there and their own sufferings of a child who went missing never to be found.

Overall, Poppy’s story was far more interesting and of aboriginal significance. Sounds very familiar to the aboriginals here in Canada who have suffered for generations in their cultures and history not being recognized and the challenges they face to be seen and heard.
4 ⭐️
Profile Image for Debbie W..
709 reviews457 followers
October 16, 2020
Although I tried listening to this audiobook, I had a hard time following the story-line, so I stopped; however, the subject matter of this story intrigued me enough to sign out a hard-copy from the library. I am so glad that I didn't give up!
I enjoyed the 3 narratives:
(1) Albert (Poppy) Gondiwindi - the definitions of his personal Aboriginal dictionary tell a very moving story as the book progresses;
(2) Reverend Greenleaf - his 1915 letter to the British Society of Ethnography outlines his development of a Mission, bringing "civilization" to the local Australian Aborigines. He comes across as optimistic, generous, sympathetic, but extremely frustrated, especially when the local Whites continue to mistreat the Indigenous people in horrific ways; and,
(3) August Gondiwindi - Poppy's (current day) granddaughter. As she returns home for her Poppy's funeral, she reminisces about her past, trying to come to terms with who she is and where she comes from.

I was drawn to the characters, and I liked how the plot moved along. The line "...brutal conquerors or bringers of civilization" really is the gist of this book. I was awestruck as to how this story strongly relates to the plight of Canada's Indigenous people.

It's a story that makes you think.
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
157 reviews311 followers
July 17, 2022
5 ⭐

“I was born on Ngurambang — can you hear it? — Ngu-ram-bang. If you say it right it hits the back of your mouth and you should taste blood in your words.”

Tara June Winch’s ‘The Yield’, Winner of the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award, is absolutely deadly from its opening lines (above) to its simultaneously poignant and optimistic conclusion. In just a little over 300 pages, using just 500 acres of land on the banks of the Murrumby River in NSW as a metaphor for, or a sort of microcosm of, the whole of Australia, Winch manages to interweave 3 unique narratives into a cohesive and compelling story covering historical and contemporary injustices experienced by Australian Aboriginals at the hands of their colonisers, falsely-claimed sovereignty and, most notably, the suppression of language and the healing that is synonymous with both its reclamation and the mending of broken cultural links.
Winch writes with a warm and wonderful mix of the sharp-edged no-frills Aussie vernacular and a beautiful earthy lyricism. A storytelling straight from the Manhang (Earth, soil).

Albert “Poppy” Gondiwindi and his unfinished Wiradjuri-language dictionary are, inarguably, the heart and soul of this garrandarang (book). Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Poppy is urged by the spirits of his ancestors to pass on the language of his people and so he begins accumulating words. The importance of language is absolutely paramount to Winch’s story. Language is the first step in bridging a cultural divide. Resurrecting the Wiradjuri language is, to Poppy, akin to a "de-colonising of the tongue... the throat [and] the mind". As Albert says, "The dictionary is not just words—there are little stories in those pages too”. Very literally in the case of his own dictionary, which Winch uses as a storytelling device for filling us in on his story; each entry sharing another detail of Albert’s life or a lesson learned from his ancestors. On a personal level, Poppy is “resurrected…bought back from extinction” by the knowledge gained and the language reclaimed from his ancestors, but his real motive in preserving and recording his people’s history and language is in proving ownership of the land that was never bought or sold, but stolen from them. Language connects time; a connection between a people’s language and the landscape is one such claim to a “native title”.

respect – yindyamarra: “I think I’ve come to realise that with some things, you cannot receive them unless you give them too… Only equals can share respect, otherwise it’s a game of masters and slaves – someone always has the upper hand when they are demanding respect.”

August Gondiwindi has been living in Europe for 10 years, getting herself as far away from her painful past as possible, when she hears of her grandfather Poppy’s death and returns home, to prosperous house (previously prosperous mission) for his burial. Told in a more traditional narrative to the other 2 POVs, her present day POV is a phenomenal depiction of two deep-rooted forms of collective psychological trauma that still endure among Aboriginal people today; Giyal dhuray (ashamed, to have shame) and Ngarran which means to be weak, hungry and depressed all at once. It’s a hunger that cannot be satiated “by anything, by love, by sex, by alcohol, by leaving the place, or by food.” It’s hungry in the sense that one is deprived of their culture and language. When, for example, English can’t satiate ones need to express themselves or one is starved of a connection to the land. The Shame is that which has lingered since the early colonial days, never completely blown out on the flatulent winds of bullshit rhetoric and inaction from the Australian Government. The whitewashing of history, the selective national amnesia regarding the foundations of our country. When your language and the colour of your skin has been associated with savagery and you were made to feel as though you were as significant only as the flora and fauna for such a long time, that’s a difficult shadow to shake. Despite all of this, August’s story is definitely one of “Victimhood to Victory”; it’s a sad struggle but, ultimately, one of healing and reclaiming one’s identity.

all together in one place – ngumbaay-dyil: “To be isolated is to be unable to act. That’s what we were – Isolated – from our family, from our language, from our cultural ways and from our land. And then we were taken ngumbaay-dyil [but] we weren’t really all together in one place, we weren’t residents in those places, us kids in our cots, we were criminals by birth, inmates since we could walk. Together and isolated at once.”

Reverand Ferdinand Greenleaf, is the 3rd in a sombre waltz of POVs and it’s a stroke of genius. Told in the form of a letter written by a Lutheran gudyi (priest) to a Dr George Cross in 1915; Greenleaf wishes to “blow the whistle”, so to speak, on all the atrocities committed against the “natives” during his time on the massacre plains; "To tell how wrongs became accepted as rights”. The genius is in the fact that it is unclear as to whether the Reverend should be considered a “goody” or a “baddy” so to speak.
Greenleaf opens Prosperous mission in 1880 in order to house and protect the native inhabitants from the cruel acts (“capture, chains, long marches, whipping, death on the roadside or… being sold like brutes as unpaid labour”) of the whites. A noble act in one sense but also one that would be irrevocably damaging to the indigenous people of the land. In “protecting” these “less-civilised” individuals, Greenleaf was culturally appropriating them. Divorcing them from their culture and very nearly rendering it extinct.

“Problem is they didn’t let the Aborigine straddle the world he knew best—no more language or hunting, or ceremonies. No more of our lore, only their law was forced. We were meant to be saved but we were still in bondage.”

Whether knowingly or not, Greenleaf took on the role of “white saviour”. He might have meant well but, ultimately, he was responsible for suppressing culture and dividing families. His mission would come under authority of the Aborigines protection board and run as a station with forced labour. Obviously intended as a mirror for White Australia, you’ll likely be shocked by how much your feelings towards the Reverend change over the course of the novel, in one way or another.

Mandaang guwu (thank you) to Tara for writing this very relevant, moving and insightful novel. Every time I read an Aussie author, I kick myself that I don’t do it more often and this was no exception; you’d think I’d learn! NAIDOC week may have passed but that’s no reason not to pick up this beauty, particularly if you’re an Australian.

Oh, a little side note; Poppy Gondiwindi’s dictionary can be found at the back of the novel but I also found a cool, free downloadable Wiradjuri dictionary app from the WCC Language Program. You can search for an English word and find the Wiradjuri equivalent spoken by Dr Stan Grant, Elizabeth Grant and Midnight Brydon :)
”Wiray Ngiyang Wiray Mayiny. No Language, No people.” - Uncle Stan Grant and Aunty Flo Grant

”… I appeal to you to think on what it means to be Australian, to be citizens of a young country with boundless skies, and to consider the treatment of our fellows, no matter from which land they have arrived, and no matter of their forefather, their tribe.”
Profile Image for Vicky "phenkos".
144 reviews94 followers
February 12, 2021
The Yield is told by means of three alternate points of view: that of August, who lives in London, but is from Massacre Plains, Australia, and returns to her birthplace when news reaches her that her grandfather Albert has died. Then there is the viewpoint of a dictionary compiler, who puts down not only words but also stories -- words like "minhi" and "baayanka" and the stories that go with them. And finally, the letters of Reverend Ferdinard Greenleaf to Dr. George Cross, President of the British Society of Ethnogaphy written in 1915. The connection between the three points of view will become clear towards the end of the book; at the beginning, the reader needs to let go and get into the rhythm of the story-telling.

August is a member of the Gondowindi, an indigenous family whose horrific treament at the hands of white colonialists unfold as we read the book, and especially the letters of Rev. Greenleaf. Greenleaf himself is a missionary originally from Germany who -- appaled at the poor state of the indigenous population -- decides to establish a mission where indigenous people can feel welcome and learn "the word of God". There is a slight disconnection between the various characters of the book and the events described, but this conveys the sense of dislocation that the characters themselves experience. Albert, the dictionary compiler, is probably the most mature and relatable of the characters. As we read on, we realise that his dictionary work is part of a broader plan to leave behind a record of the language and culture of the Gondiwindi. Add to the mix a mining company that has received licence to drive the villagers away in order to mine for tin and a disappeared little sister and you have the elements of the story Winch covers in the book.

This book conveys in a really eloquent way the indigenous experience at the hands of white colonialists. It is hard to believe the prejudice white people harboured until relatively recently. There is a point in the book where a team of university students tries to get indigenous children to swim at the local swimming pool although this was legally forbidden. They turn up at the pool and make a scene -- only to be told by white people that the children should return where they came from. "They’re bad,” one woman said, “they don’t belong here, they should go back to their huts." When you go to a foreign country, August says at some point, you try to learn a few phrases from the language of the people living there. You do that out of courtesy but also to make life easier for yourself. Yet, when white people went to Australia, not only did they not try to learn any of the indigenous languages but in addition they forbade indigenous people from speaking their native tongue and tried to erase every memory of their traditions. That is why Albert's dictionary is important; because the words it includes and the stories it conveys are some of the few pieces of evidence of other languages and other civilisations in Australia.

In an appendix to the book Winch says that Albert's fictional dictionary is based on a dictionary of Wiradjuri, one of the 250 languages of Australia on the brink of extinction. She also says the following:

The experiences of the fictional Gondiwindi family reflect those experienced by all Indigenous people touched by violence, segregation, abuse, and the dehumanizing policies and practices of colonialism. As part of these separation policies, the government and churches banned and discouraged the use of the native tongue. They did this by forcibly removing children from their families, where they were taken into missions and institutions in order to expunge the Indigenous culture. This practice began in 1910 and continued until the 1970s.
Cultural knowledge, community history, customs, modes of thinking and belonging to the land are carried through languages. In the last two hundred years, Australia has suffered the largest and most rapid loss of languages known to history. Today, despite efforts of revitalization, Australia’s languages are some of the most endangered in the world.

Despite that, the novel ends on a positive note. Albert's dictionary, the kindness he showed people while alive, his wisdom and goodness, leave behind a legacy that touches everyone that knew him. Some kind of healing is possible even though it does nor erase, of course, the centuries of oppression and abuse. There is optimism at the end of the book and the sense of dislocation diminishes. I really enjoyed this book for its treament of such a difficult topic, which it does intelligently and with compassion.
Profile Image for Lisa.
377 reviews47 followers
September 23, 2022
Having recently read a non-fiction work about the dispossession of U.S. native peoples, I wanted to read a little more about the relationships between European colonizers and native peoples in other countries. I found Tara June Winch's novel The Yield to be an excellent introduction to this topic in Australia.

Winch tells her story in 3 threads. 1 is a dictionary that Albert begins writing when he is diagnosed with cancer. Through his native language he introduces us to the poetry and the deep meanings of these words as he tells his story and the story of the Gondiwindis. His definitions aren't just descriptions of the words, they include anecdotes, traditions, and cultural lore.

"The language was the poem she had looked for, communicating what English failed to say. . . . Her poppy used to say the words were paramount. That they were like icebergs floating, melting; that there were ocean depths to them that they couldn't have talked about."

2 is the story of August, Albert's granddaughter who fled her homeland for England at 20. There are wounds in her family that she runs from; she hasn't really been living all that time, just going through the motions while her longing for home and family were deeply buried. Almost 10 years later she returns for Albert's funeral.

"She thought how for so long she'd been living her life in a box of to-do, like a never-ending winter, her own long hibernation. she had lived her life as if it were full of potholes, tripwire, landmines, too scared to move properly. But she was here, she thought, and she cared about something and for her family for the first time in forever. she reckoned she wouldn't fall into quicksand on the edge of town."

3 is a letter written in 1915 from British/German Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf to Dr. George Cross, head of The British Society of Ethnography. It is his account of building Prosperous Lutheran Mission for the native inhabitants of the town in 1880. His letter is spread throughout the novel in short sections. He records his intentions, his observations, what he learns about the native peoples and how they are treated by the townspeople and the government.

"Rife here are the darkest deeds ever performed by man upon his fellow man, which makes countless thousands mourn. That vile inhumanity practiced by the white-skinned Christian on his dark-skinned brother in order to obtain land and residence, for 'peaceful acquisition'--that includes capture, chains, long marches, whipping, death on the roadside, or, if surviving all these--the far more terrible fate--being sold like brutes of the field as unpaid labor to the highest bidder."

Winch brings the Gondiwindi family to life. August's Aunt Missy describes those last days with her father Albert:

"Those final stages went on for a couple of days. The soul and the mind are there, but the body can't do anything else to be with the mind--it's like he became split. The natural split. At that moment I didn't want it to end, I just wanted another day, then you want another hour, another minute. It's all precious in the end! It's like there are never enough details left. I wanted everything back. Fingerprints, photos, every story, nights that were longer. A right time to die? To be separated? There isn't, August. It hurts all the time, it hurts to lose someone, doesn't it?"

If you have ever sat with someone you love who is dying, you will recognize these feelings. I have had the privilege of being with 3 of my grandparents, my husband's uncle, and a good friend when they have transitioned. These moments are precious. And if one allows oneself to be fully present, it can be a powerful time.

Defining the word baayanha Albert writes “Yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land, the thing he’s waited for and gets to claim.” In Wiradjuri, “it’s the things you give to, the movement, the space between things.”

This is a novel full of the spaces in between. Winch's writing is subtle and strong. The brutality of life for the native people is shown in glimpses, so when she makes a forceful statement it has even greater power. Consider Albert's daughter's statement when viewing a museum exhibit of Aboriginal artifacts:

“They should work out how many of us they murdered and have a museum of tanks of blood!"

Winch successfully weaves these 3 threads together to create a story of history, of remembering and recovery; and she reminds me that words and language create a bridge of understanding of a way of life and thinking.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,024 reviews883 followers
July 28, 2020
As many have already stated, The Yield is quite an accomplished novel.
It managed to be literary yet very accessible, contemporary and historical, informative and emotional, polemical but also philosophical. It also introduced the reader to the Wiradjuri language, one of the many Indigenous languages and dialects in Australia - many of which had disappeared. I am ashamed to say that I don't know any words in the language of the native people in my area - the Noongar people. None of my Aussie born friends and acquaintances know any words either, unfortunately, many of them wouldn't even learn it had they had the opportunity - but that's another topic ...

The novel unfolds via three different characters: August Gondiwindi, who returns from England to Masacre Plains for her grandfather's funeral - Poppy Gondiwindi, whose point of view introduces us to another period in history. The third narrative is via letters written in 1915 by a German reverend, who established an Aboriginal mission in Massacre Plains. Through his letters, we bear witness to the atrocities committed by the whites, whose intense hatred and extreme cruelties made the reverend doubt his faith in God.

Poppy Gondiwindi, an elder in the community, was working to preserve the Wiradjuri language and to find artefacts that would stop that mining development in Massacre Plains that threatened their home and farm. His story is strewn with pain and suffering but also resilience and hope.

The Yield shows us the effects of intergenerational trauma, dispossession, abuse, and language loss. Self-determinism is empowering. Having your own language is essential.

This is a complex novel that can be analysed for hours. I'm going to recommend it to lots of people.

Congratulations to Tara June Winch on receiving so many awards and the well-deserved recognition for her hard work and talent.
Profile Image for Michael Livingston.
795 reviews242 followers
July 17, 2019
This is another ripper - angry, sad, wise and somehow optimistic. It reminded me of Too Much Lip in a lot of ways, although with less humour. The richness in the ways that Winch tackles language particularly is revelatory - there's so much cultural knowledge here, but also a brilliant narrative and complicated, fascinating characters.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,422 reviews538 followers
October 3, 2020
[3.5] The Yield is slow-building novel about a young indigenous Australian woman who returns to her home after her grandfather dies. I found it more educational than entertaining. Moving back and forth between August's story, to a missionary's letters, to her grandfather's Wiradjuri language dictionary made for a scattered reading experience. Yet, I learned a great deal so it was well worth the effort.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,748 reviews1,204 followers
January 21, 2021
Published in the UK today 21-1-21

queen bee, bee—darribun, ngaraang The ngaraang is in danger now, whole colonies are dying and the queen bee darribun is left, like on a chessboard, without any pawns, with all the worker ngaraang dying off. The bee puts off leaving the hive until later in their lives, when they are adults, because with less flowers it means collecting pollen is hard work for the bee, and many die of exhaustion before they make honey—warrul—and never return to the home. If the pesticides from the farms stress the hive or the bees while they are out foraging in a big sweep, they can die. This triggers a very fast, too-early maturation of the next generation of bees, and they leave the hive too early, before they’re ready, and a whole colony collapses. The Gondiwindi have been like that, scattered children without the thing that nourishes them, without a compass to get back home.

This novel rather swept the Board in 2020 in Australian book prize shortlisting and wins – and is published in the UK in 2021.

The set-up of the novel is the aftermath of the death from pancreatic cancer of Albert “Poppy” Gondiwindi. Albert lived in his birth place – the small Australian town of Massacre Plains on the banks of the Murrumby River, with his wife Elsie at the Old Mission - – Prosperous House.

The mission was first established by Lutheran Priest – Rev Greenleaf (an anglicised version of his family name taken when his father moved from Prussia in the 1840s.

Albert’s prodigal grand-daughter August (who at 8 year’s old was taken with her 1 year old sister Jedda by Elsie and Albert to live with them after the arrest of August and Jedda’s neglectful parents for drug growing) returns to Prosperous House on hearing the news. She fled home at an older teenager after a cousin was convicted for arson – and ended up in England working in a Surrey village pub. August never really recovered from the unsolved disappearance of Jedda a year after they moved to Prosperous House. When August returns she finds that her grandmother faces imminent eviction. The local landowning family invited a mining company to survey their land – only for the mining firm to find not just a huge deposit of tin but that the family only had a 99 year (now expired) lease on the land. A group of environmental protesters claim to August that it is a sacred site, and her cousin (recently released from his jail sentence) says he had investigated Native Title – but no one can find any evidence of either artifacts or language to establish a claim. It is known that before his death Albert was researching local history and natural history and seemingly compiling a book – but it cannot be found.

The book is told in three different ways.

The first is a lengthy letter written by Rev Greenleaf to a British Ethnographer in 1915 – as he himself faces internment as an alien given his German background. The letter partly serves as a history of the Mission and the various abuses and horrors inflicted on the Mission and particularly its native inhabitants by the racist white population and authorities; partly as a piece of self-apologia and justification – for the Rev’s missionary role – and his belated and partial acceptance of the dangers of losing the natives practices and beliefs and (above all) their language.

This was probably my least favourite part of the book. It seemed the least original in contrivance (ie the letter form) and its themes; and partly I think as I was a lot more sympathetic to the Reverend’s mission than the author of the book clearly intends the reader to be.

The second is the present day tale of August. This part is the heart of the book – and in some ways the most conventional but I think had hidden depths. In particular, August’s return forces her to: confront past memories – both good and bad, particularly centering around her childhood with Jedda; reevaluate the evasion and fleeing that has characterised her adult life – and to rethink the importance of place, of language, of family and ultimately of belonging; restart many relationships held in stasis – for example with her jailed cousin, the son of the local landowners and with a Great Aunt with a very wayward long-dead son.

The third is simply outstanding – and is what I think has won the book so many awards. It is the book written by Albert – effectively a Z-A dictionary of English words, with their nearest equivalent in the Wiradjuri language and with a discussion of the Wiradjuri concept. Albert was in regular contact with his Gondiwindi ancestors (the author has described him as a time traveller) so some of his entries have a magic realist element exploring the ancient history and tradition of the areas. Some are more explorations of the local flora and fauna and of the area and of Gondiwindi hunting and farming practices. Some are more spiritual in nature – exploring the different world views and approaches of captured in the Wiradjuri on contrast to the same words in English – and how these difference concepts capture how relationships developed, for example the title of the book.

yield, bend the feet, tread, as in walking, also long, tall—baayanha Yield itself is a funny word—yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land, the thing he’s waited for and gets to claim. A wheat yield. In my language it’s the things you give to, the movement, the space between things. It’s also the action made by Baiame, because sorrow, old age, and pain bend and yield. The bodies of the ones that had passed were buried with every joint bent, even if the bones had to be broken. I think it was a bend in humiliation, just like we bend at our knees and bow our heads. Bend, yield—baayanha.

But further the entries contain the story of Albert’s life and the keys to various unresolved issues.

The present-day August part then pulls these strands together – firstly in a climatic series of confrontations and then in what is effectively an epilogue.

Overall this is a fascinating book – the dictionary part elevating a very good book into an outstanding one .

I will be very disappointed – but not surprised - if this book does not feature on UK prize lists this year such as the Booker and the Women’s Prize. Unfortunately both prizes seem to have become a little fixated on US novels and US authors (the Booker reaching something of a nadir in that respect this year) to the detriment of Antipodean novels – and I would hope to see that addresses this year. This book I would suggest is a far fresher and more interesting exploration of racism, language, cultural identity, colonialism etc than another identikit novel looking at slavery in America (or its legacy) or at post colonial India.

The smells, tastes, and burdens left August. She ate again too; she wasn’t ngarran anymore. English changed their tongues, the formation of their minds, August thought—she’d drifted in and out of herself all that time. The language was the poem she had looked for, communicating what English failed to say. She’d come across the Pink Map and arrived. Her poppy used to say the words were paramount. That they were like icebergs floating, melting, that there were ocean depths to them that they couldn’t have talked about.

My thanks to 4th Estate and William Collins for an ARC via NetGalley
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,302 reviews119 followers
September 3, 2020
Miles Franklin Award 2020. Winch’s brilliantly crafted novel uses the language of the Wiradjuri people to tell the story of a culture that endured for hundreds of years, but barely survived the onslaught of Australian colonization. Much like the American policies put in place to ‘Americanize’ Native Americans by removing children from their tribal reservations, and forbidding them from speaking their native tongue in school; the Australians did the same with their Indigenous people. Winch’s novel highlights the wrong-headedness of these policies, by stressing the importance of Language to instill culture and individual identity.

Through the voices of three narrators, Winch weaves a multi-generational story that takes place in Massacre Plains at Prosperous House along the Murrumby River. There is the patriarch Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi; he is determined to pass on the language of his people. Second, is the voice of August Gondiwindi who has been living in the U.K. for the past ten years, but returns when she learns of her grandfather’s death. And the last voice is heard through the letters of the Reverend Greenleaf who immigrated from Germany in the early 20th century to set up a mission. The inhumane treatment of the Indigenous people he describes reminds one of the suffering of Black Americans in the Jim Crow south.

Throughout is Winch’s lyrical descriptions of the land, and the river. Strongly recommend.
Profile Image for Ace.
431 reviews23 followers
April 4, 2020
I loved everything about this book. The timelines, the narrators, the structure and the dictionary. Even the horrific history, no matter how many times you read it, in different shapes and voices, you think you've heard it before but Winch has portrayed it so creatively here. It was deeply moving and bloody brilliant. Surely is the front-runner to win the Stella Prize in a few days. I haven't read any others on the shortlist and probably won't have time now, but my money is on this one!
Profile Image for Trudie.
520 reviews555 followers
August 2, 2020

all together in one place - ngumbaay-dyil
To be isolated is to be unable to act. That's what we were - isolated - from our family, from our language, from our cultural ways and from out land. And then we were taken - ngumbaay-dyil.... We weren't really all together in one place, we weren't residents in those places, us kids on our cots, we were criminals by birth, inmates since we could walk. Together and isolated at once.

Last week, this book won Australia's most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award - and I could not be happier for its author, Tara June Winch. It seems to me, the Australian literary landscape has been changing significantly in recent years, turning a more critical eye upon its colonial past - taking a reckoning.
Increasingly, Indigenous voices are being more widely heard, books like 2019's Miles Franklin winner - Too Much Lip by Koorie author Melissa Lucashenko, (a novel thematically aligned with The Yield but perhaps lighter in tone).

Noticing this trend in AusLit is not to say this writing has suddenly turned up fully formed. Bruce Pascoe, the author of nonfiction work Dark Emu, has been writing for forty years, and as June Winch says "When I've looked back, some of the most incredible work has come from the 1960s or '70s". * But it might reflect a feeling The Yield has really punched through to an audience beyond Australian readers.

This novel unfurls in three alternating strands; loosely a past, present, and future. A historical letter from a Lutheran minister Reverand Greenleaf ( based on real historical accounts) and the Wiradjuri dictionary compiled Albert "Poppy" Gondiwindi, are the two parts that I admired the most, but August Gondiwindi's homecoming holds the story together. If I have a criticism, it is a sense that this story might be creaking under the weight of all the issues touched upon. There is material here for several novels and some potentially amazing characters are short-changed.

Whatever slight faults I could find were offset in my mind by the overall themes.
In the last two hundred years, Australia has suffered the largest and most rapid loss of languages known to history - ( Authors Note ). The Yield addresses this head-on by putting the Wiradjuri language front and center, to the reader it teaches the importance of language to culture and conveys a sense of poetry by weaving stories around unfamiliar words. As Poppy says : what a companion the dictionary is - there are stories in that book that 'll knock your boots off .

As a New Zealand reader with close ties to Australia, I was stunned at how much of this history was only dimly understood by me. I knew about the Stolen Generation but not fathomed on any real level the ruthless attempt to obliterate Aboriginal culture and language. How is it I have read so many novels about slavery in the American South and yet it was a surprise to learn what monstrous deeds were carried out under the auspices of "The Masters and Servants Act" in a country that is my closest neighbor?

they then became the Bond Service Property of a fellow on a Station. And when they subsequently ran away.. the Police were set in motion, then they are run down or ferreted out ... chained for weeks before being returned to these monstrous Station men who wave in victory paper copies of the Masters and Servants Act

A powerful, unsettling read, a landmark in contemporary Australian fiction, and one of many novels I hope to read about this topic in the future.

Profile Image for Neale .
286 reviews126 followers
July 19, 2021
I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to get around to this wonderful novel.

The novel is broken into three different narratives. Narratives that change in time but not geography. All the arcs revolve around the Prosperous Mission that was built in Massacre Plains for the indigenous population by Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf in the late nineteenth century. Massacre Plains, an apt name considering the bloodshed that was spilled in the name of colonization. Greenleaf’s chapters take an epistolary form. Greenleaf’s intentions are good, and he has what he believes are the aboriginal’s best interests at heart. However, by the end of the book he realizes what a terrible error in judgement he has made, in pushing his belief system onto a different culture. He even comes to question his own.

The bulk of the story takes place in the present and is narrated by August Gondiwindi. August walked out of school mid-term in the eighth grade never to return. Her friends, who thought she was a freak, enforced the rumor that she had run away to join the circus, but she had in fact travelled all the way to London. With August running away at such a young age, her childhood is lost, her culture never developed. August has never felt complete, never felt a part of anything,

“Maybe I just feel weird, I don’t know. Stuff changes. I feel as if I am just floating through life or something. Like my whole life I haven’t really been me.”

August returns to Massacre Plains when her beloved Pop Albert passes away and his part is the third part in the connecting storylines. This is my favorite part. Pop Albert’s chapters are written in the form of a dictionary of the Wiradjuri language that he was working on before he died. Along with definitions, the reader is treated to anecdotes, customs and creation stories that are a delight to read. It also tells the story, and fate of August’s sister Jedda, who went missing when they were young girls. August constantly refers to Jedda, recalling memories of the two of them. Her loss, a loss that devastated the Gondiwindi family

The theme of land rights is explored in August’s narrative. Upon returning for her Pop’s funeral, August learns that her Nan is going to lose Prosperous to a mining company who are going to dig up the land for a tin mine. Tara June Winch reminds the reader of the many crimes that colonial powers have inflicted on indigenous populations throughout history. Crimes that we are only starting to admit and atone for now. Apologizing and recognition a step towards reconciliation.

Another theme is the loss of language and the vital importance of retaining and preserving these languages that are perhaps more important than physical artifacts. Especially for identity and sense of belonging for tribal members. Many languages around the world have already been lost, and numerous Australian indigenous languages are listed as endangered. When they are lost, they are lost forever.

This is a wonderful novel which thoroughly deserved the 2020 Miles Franklin Award.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,174 followers
April 11, 2021
Yield, bend the feet, tread, as in walking, also long, tall— baayanha
Yield itself is a funny word— yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land, the thing he’s waited for and gets to claim. A wheat yield. In my language it’s the things you give to, the movement, the space between things. It’s also the action made by Baiame, because sorrow, old age, and pain bend and yield. The bodies of the ones that had passed were buried with every joint bent, even if the bones had to be broken. I think it was a bend in humiliation, just like we bend at our knees and bow our heads. Bend, yield— baayanha.

"The bullet was the means of the physical subjugation. Language was the means of the spiritual subjugation." Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o in Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature

The Yield rather dominated in literary awards in Australia last year, and deservedly so. A vitally important and cleverly constructed novel which centres around First-Nation experience, with, at its heart, the Wiradjuri language. The author has acknowledged the inspiration of both Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o (particularly the quote above) and, more directly, via a mentorship, Wole Soyinka (https://www.rolex.org/rolex-mentor-pr...).

I really hope this book gets the attention in the UK and US from media and press that is deserves - and which the 2019 Miles Franklin Award winner Too Much Lip unfortunately did not (I'm equally culpable of overlooking that). See here for Tara June Winch in conversation with Melissa Lucashenko: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG0P5...). The Booker Prize in particular seems to have swung away from Australian and New Zealand authors towards the US - whether the fault of juries or publishers entries or both - but I would hope to see this feature on the 2021 shortlist, perhaps alongside the first new novel in almost 50 years from Soyinka.

The old people, old people with mouths filled still with things they needed to teach.” “That’s sad,” I said, and Great-Aunty said, “You’ll tell them I told you and then they’ll never do things like that again.” I asked her, “Who do I tell?” and she said, “Just tell the truth and someone will hear it eventually.” I guess this is what I’m doing, finally.

4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Daniel Shindler.
248 reviews70 followers
March 8, 2022
This novel presents an extraordinary scope, portraying the history of the Aborigine people through three distinct narratives.It is told through three separate and distinct voices that ultimately weave together to fuse an unnerving historical tale with a potential ray of hope.

Albert “ Poppy” Gondiwindi is dead and his granddaughter Augustus returns from England for his funeral in Australia.She has been in England for ten years in an attempt to eradicate the memories and guilt from her childhood, including the disappearance of her older sister. Upon arriving, August learns that the land that her family lives on will be taken by a mining company, dispossessing her Wiradjuri tribe.

Augustus gradually determines to fight the mining company.She discovers that Poppy had compiled a dictionary chronicling the tribe’s words, symbols and relics. There also is a series of letters from a Reverend Greenleaf written in 1915 that chronicle the harassment and attempts at exterminating the aboriginal population through violence,abuse and removal of children.

These three voices are presented in alternating chapters and combine to provide a picture of the depredations committed against the indigenous population.At the same time, though, a sense of majesty and hope arises from Poppy’s dictionary.The dictionary links native language to the spirit of the tribe and provides a panorama of the history, myths and cultural guideposts of the tribe. Poppy is bequeathing the legacy of his ancestors through this dictionary.He recognizes that the eradication of a people’s language and history can be more devastating than even physical violence. Recording these touchstones can provide a path to survival and pride and possibly engage the oppressors to confront their wrongs and begin the healing of a society through acknowledging its wrongs.

The prose in this novel is at times lyrical and poetic. There are many layers and textures to this story that require a good deal of engagement. Ms Winch has undertaken a monumental task and has succeeded admirably.
Profile Image for Sarah.
676 reviews128 followers
February 14, 2021
I found The Yield fascinating and often heart-rending.
Winch's story, shortlisted for the 2020 Stella Prize is told via three different perspectives. Fading fast, Albert Gondiwindi strives to record details of his own and his people's past and his knowledge of the Wiradjuri language. Prodigal granddaughter August Gondiwindi returns to Massacre Plains after a decade spent on the other side of the world when she hears of her beloved grandfather's death. Interleaved into their narratives is correspondence written by Lutheran missionary, Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf, who created and ran the Prosperous mission in the years before the First World War.
The three narratives interweave to create a vivid picture of life on the banks of the (fictional) Murrumby River, the dispossession of the original custodians, the Wiradjuri people, and the state-sanctioned destruction of their lands, culture and language. Winch's writing is straightforward, yet lyrical and her characters complex.
Having grown up on Wiradjuri land (at Wagga Wagga, NSW) myself, albeit as a "mintie", I found many of the Wiradjuri animal and object names and stories familiar, including that of the doomed lovers Gobbagumbalin and Pomingalarna. While Winch's backstory is fictional, it is strongly evidence-based on the experience of those who lived in Aboriginal missions (although Winch's "Prosperous" is perhaps unrealistically benign), the "stolen generations" of Aboriginal children and the songlines of the Wiradjuri. Winch's portrayal of the latter, mostly through the character of Albert Gondiwindi, is enhanced by elements of magical realism.
I'm glad that I'd read Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu a couple of months prior to reading The Yield, as the former gave me at least a basic understanding of the scope and complexity of indigenous agriculture, housing and culture prior to European colonisation. Winch lists Dark Emu, as well as Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth as references.
While The Yield has expanded my understanding and appreciation of Australian indigenous culture, it was also a stimulating and satisfying read purely in terms of storyline and characters. A superlative work of modern Australian fiction.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,878 reviews266 followers
July 11, 2020

‘I want to spread everywhere I can over Prosperous, I want the body to float up to the leaves, I want to rest in the wheatfield, the last yield, before it’s dug open.’

The Yield is a rich and remarkable odyssey into Indigenous people and their culture. Structured in the form of three equally compelling narratives, this profoundly Australian yarn takes a deeper look at Indigenous identity and the power of language. The Yield is a text that should be read by all Australians.

The Yield is the compelling tale of Albert Gondiwindi, who reveals his powerful and sad life story. We learn of Albert’s early years growing up in the NSW based area of Murrumby River on Massacre Plains. Albert remains true to his culture and people, despite the deep loss he has experienced in his life. In order to preserve his legacy, Albert compiles a remarkable dictionary that captures the language and unique words of his people. In contemporary times, Albert’s granddaughter August must return home following her grandfather’s death. As August struggles to contain her grief, she also feels a great deal of disconnection between her past and present day existence. August’s deep sense of loss and distance from her ancestral home is further compounded by the tragic plans of a mining company in the region to take away her kin’s land. As August fights for the land of her grandfather, her people and her past, August gleans a great deal more about the secrets of her family’s past.

On first glance The Yield appears to be quite a complex novel. Intertwining three voices, each as compelling as the other, Tara June Winch’s novel releases three stories that reveal much about Indigenous people, the land, language, culture and belief systems. It took a little time for me to settle into the groove of this novel’s set style and fully appreciate the intentions of the author’s approach. However, I do admit that I came away from my reading of The Yield with an increased level of respect for the Indigenous language structure.

Albert’s story is told via his compelling first person account. It is a rich and colourful life, but these snapshots are told with moments of disbelief and sorrow. Albert spent much of his life in missions and boy’s homes. Although these policies were formed with supposedly good intentions, you can see just how devastating and destructive these places were to the local culture. Albert’s story will break your heart, but it also offers an enlightening glimpse into the sovereignty of the indigenous language and Albert’s location specific dialogue. Albert’s collection of words are noted down in the form of a dictionary, which is carefully inserted within the main narrative.

August is Albert’s granddaughter. August’s story captures some of the feelings I think would be felt by many modern day Indigenous people. With over a decade away from her home base, August struggles to bridge the world between her past and her present day existence. The loss of her grandfather Albert seems to compound this sense of deep loss and disconnection. Tara June Winch does a very good job of capturing these feelings and sensitivities. The fight August faces in retaining the land that is so sacred to her people highlights the present day complications faced by the Indigenous people in gaining an upper hand over big mining companies. This was another eye opening and thought provoking component to The Yield.

In the final voice of this tender and moving text, we delve into the mind of a local pastor to the region, based on a Lutheran mission in 1915. Through this compelling perspective which takes the format of journal entries and letters, we appreciate the conditions, treatment, cruel policies, loss, abuse and the strong sense of injustice experienced by many local Indigenous people. This is a regrettable time in our history books that I feel we should be made aware of, despite how saddening it can be to read.

In an effort to help further situate the reader in the site of the struggles experienced by the local people featured in The Yield, there is an informative map that is included in this text. Albert’s dictionary is located at the end of the story and is a noteworthy accompaniment to this beguiling story.

Educative, revealing and spiritually moving, The Yield offers a merciful look into family, love, loss, culture, history, land and faith. The Yield is an important novel for all readers of our nation and it is an obvious choice for the awards it has received and those it has been nominated for.

The Yield is book #78 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge
Profile Image for La Crosse County Library.
550 reviews133 followers
October 26, 2022
This book will be our book club's August read. To get a copy and read along with us, please visit https://lacrossecounty.org/library for access to both print and digital reading materials through our catalog, Hoopla, and Libby. Happy reading!

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The Yield (2020) is a spectacularly powerful novel recounting the story of an indigenous woman returning to her birthplace, a rural Australian town eerily named Massacre Plains, for her grandfather’s memorial.

August Gondiwindi ran away to live abroad in England after her older sister Jedda’s disappearance, so things are definitely awkward and complicated when she returns home to Prosperous House after ten years. On top of unfinished family business, August finds out that mining company Rinepalm is coming to take their house to make way for a tin mine. She becomes determined to find a way to save their land, to make amends to her family, and also to safeguard their ancestral territory.

August’s quest is interspersed with two other narratives that serve to contextualize the present moment: her grandfather’s life story written on his deathbed in the form of a dictionary, as well as that of letters written by Prosperous’s founder, Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf. In these beautiful intertwining narratives, readers experience the intentional fragmentation of Australia’s Aborigine population via slavery, land theft, and forced separation of children from their families to attend “civilizing” boarding schools (sound familiar?).

"After digesting all those schoolbook lies, after reading that Reverend’s letter, after walking the aisles of the museum, she knew her life wasn’t like before. There was an expanse behind her; their lives meant something, their lives were huge. Thousands of years, she thought to herself. Slipped through the fingers of careless people. That’s what homogenized Massacre thought, that they were a careless people. Anyone watching the TV that week must’ve thought it—that Jedda was just a little brown girl gone missing from a messy brown family. Other people didn’t have lumps in their throat year in and out, century after century. They didn’t know what it was like to be torn apart."--The Yield, pg. 259

The Yield is a bittersweet story of family, hope, freedom, victory, tragedy, and making right the wrongs of a long history of oppression. While This Tender Land (2019) by William Kent Krueger also examined these themes, I feel that The Yield took a more unflinching look at the worst of humanity. It hit me from the opening chapter to the ending, and will stay with me for a very long time.

Yes, this book will lead to some tough conversations, but they are long overdue.


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This book will be our book club's August read. To get a copy and read along with us, please visit https://lacrossecounty.org/library for access to both print and digital reading materials through our catalog, Hoopla, and Libby. Happy reading!

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This Tender Land (2019) by William Kent Krueger
Profile Image for John Banks.
133 reviews48 followers
October 29, 2021
Winner 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch's The Yield is a magnificant, deeply moving assertion of Indigenous (Australian Aboriginal) culture, language, country and identities. It's powerful, wonderfully written and artistically crafted.

This is such an important work that I hope gets into the hands and minds of many Australians and beyond. It builds an important bridge to understanding. It asks us as readers to yield (baayanha), to bend and bow our heads and hearts, to pay attention to:

"the movement, the space between things. It's also the action made by Baiame, because sorrow, old age and pain bend and yield. The bodies of the ones that had passed were burried with every joint bent, even if the bones had to be broken. I think it was a bend in humilation just like we bend at our kness and bow our heads. Bend, yield - baayanha".

This is an extract encountered early in the novel from central character Albert Gondiwindi's work in progress dictionary and notebook. These entries from the dictionary are throughout the novel, each a meditation and reclaiming of Wiradjuri language (and its meanings for culture and country), together with Albert's reflection on his life: his and his families' and peoples' struggle with the disposession, violences and inhumanity inflicted by colonialism. The entires also though are an open hearted sharing of Indigenous knowledges and values. He wrote these entries as he closed on death, seeking in part a way to rediscover and assert Indigenous cultural rights as a mining company seeks to take Gondiwindi land in the Murrumby River, Prosperous House (former Mission) on Massacre plains. I approached my reading, and I hopec also this review, in the spirit of baayanha.

The novel commences as Albert's story but it also quickly becomes the story of his grandaughter, August, who has lived for a decade (her twenties) in England and returns to her home, Prosperous, for her grandfather's burial after he has died from cancer. Significant chapters cover her grief and joy as she reconnects with kin and country and in many ways refinds herself. She encounters painful and traumatic childhood events as well as the deep past and time of her peoples' stories.

The colonial history of dispossession, segregation and separation is also narrated in the form of letters from Reverend Ferdinand Greenleaf, written in 1915, that mostly cover terrible events he witnessed in the late 1890s as he established the Prosperous Mission.

These three forms of narrative (August Gondiwindi's dictionary and reflections; August's story as she returns home to kin and country the episodes that unfold around that; Greenleaf's letters from the colonial past that reverberates into the contemporary) are skillfully and beautifully intertwined to provide a meaningful structure. Fascinating themes of memory and time, including different cultural understandings and experiences of time are developed. This profound bending of time and memory is one of the particular qualities of the novel that I especially enjoyed.

I acutally don't want to say much more about this book other than please read it. It provides a profoundly moving reading experience.

I want to end with a passage as August encounters artefacts from her peoples many millenia of history that are being 'kept' in a museum collection:

"August wanted to hand the papers back and tell them everything, draw them close and whisper that their lives had turned out wrong, that she and her family were meant to be powerful, not broken, tell them that something bad happenned before any of them was born. Tell them that something was stolen from a place inland, from the five hundred acres where her people lived. She wanted to tell them that the world was all askew and she thought it was because of the artefacts, that she thought they should understand it was all so urgent now, that they knew truths now, to tell them that she wasn't extinct, that they didn't need the exhibition after all. All the hidden pieces were being put back together, she wanted to say. But she didn't say any of those things."

Except now Tara June Winch has said those things with this superb truth telling of a novel. There's a lot of gulbarra, understanding, and an opportunity for deep thinking and experiencing here.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,132 reviews138 followers
August 21, 2022
A beautifully written novel about language, culture and land of the Wiradjuri people. The story is told in three separate narratives. The main storyline is centred around August Gondiwindi, who returns to her childhood home after her grandfathers death. The property is about to be taken over by a mining company. Second is her grandfathers dictionary that he was compiling of their indigenous language with stories that relate to his family and people at each entry. Finally the letters of Reverend Greenleaf who ran a Lutheran mission. It’s an emotional read.
Profile Image for Nadine in California.
918 reviews88 followers
November 25, 2020
Winch has created a wonderful character in Albert Gondiwindi, and bringing him to life through his dictionary entries was an inspired idea. He is such a perfect embodiment of the warmth and depth of his culture, the tragedy of its losses and the vibrancy that remains. The way his story intertwines with the anguished letter of the missionary Greenleaf draws a powerful and harrowing picture of colonial Australia. If Albert had been the central protagonist and occupied most of the time and space of this novel, I would have loved it. Unfortunately for me, that role went to his granddaughter, August, who seemed so bland in comparison. She never came alive for me, and I was especially disappointed when a brief hint of a magical realism in her storyline (page 53) went nowhere. The present day plot as a whole struck me as too pat - although it did give the book some nice momentum at the end. One tiny point I have to raise, a pet peeve of mine: In 2020 it's no longer necessary to write clunky sentences describing the mechanics of ordinary things like internet searching: "In the search engine she typed tin mine and clicked on images." A simple "she searched for pictures of tin mines" works fine.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,089 reviews6,597 followers
January 1, 2021
"There exists a sort of torture of memory if you let it come, if you invite the past to huddle beside you, comforting like a leech...a footprint in history has a thousand repercussions, that there are a thousand battles being fought every day because people couldn't forget something that happened before they were born. There are few worse things than memory, yet few things better."

representation: own voices Aboriginal (Wiradjuri) MC and side characters, lesbian MC

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]


I really enjoyed this, especially the perspectives from the past. I found them really interesting. It had a very slow build though and I found the story dragged at points, but the writing was definitely amazing!

trigger warnings: death from cancer, loss of a grandparent, colonialism, racism, rape, stolen generation, violence, hurt animals, missing sibling, kidnapping, incarcerated loved ones, fire, murder.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
324 reviews112 followers
August 11, 2019
This book was absolutely stunning. However, I don’t feel at all qualified to discuss this for book club, and I’m starting to get a little bit stressed about the whole thing.
The language was stunning, and I absolutely cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially considering the author will be at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival this year.
Seriously, read this book.
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