Jennifer (JC-S)'s Reviews > Am I Black Enough For You?

Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss
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really liked it
bookshelves: australian-author, australian-womens-writers-challenge

‘What does it mean to be Aboriginal?’

I’ve had a copy of this book sitting on my desk for a while. A comment on my review of another book by a fellow reviewer prompted me to read it. Thank you, Lisa.

Now I have read it, I’m annoyed with myself for not reading it sooner. Anita Heiss was one of nine Aboriginal people who sued Andrew Bolt. I was vaguely aware of the legal case over two articles he published in 2009 entitled ‘It's so hip to be black’ and ‘White fellas in the black’ but I hadn’t really focussed on the impact of those articles. I was pleased when Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act in 2011 but didn’t explore it further. And now I have.

This book is Anita Heiss’s memoir on identity. It’s a considered, thoughtful and at times humorous account of her life and of the impact other people’s definitions of identity can have. It questions the stereotypes many of us have grown up with and makes it very clear that identity is both individual and complex.

‘The past is always with me as a reminder of who I am, where I have come from, why I am here and why I do what I do in my career.’

I’ve been reading quite a few books recently about history and identity. I’m acutely conscious that what I was taught in school in Tasmania about there no longer being any ‘full-blood’ Aboriginal Tasmanians is wrong. I’m aware that what I was taught was based (largely) on notions of blood quantum.

‘Throughout the western world there were and are government definitions of Aborigines based on a caste system defined by blood quantum (half-caste, quarter-caste, full-blood, quadroon). These definitions are used as a means of watering down and eliminating Aboriginal peoples in Australia .’

Indeed. What on earth does ‘full-blood’ mean? How does blood define identity any more than skin colour does? How we identify and who we identify with can be complex. And it is not up to newspaper columnists (or anyone else) to decide, on behalf of others, which groups they should belong to.

‘I know that I am who I am as Anita Marianne Heiss because of the home life I had as a child, teenager and grown woman.’

If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it. Me, I’m off to read some of Anita Heiss’s other books.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Reading Progress

November 18, 2019 – Started Reading
November 18, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-womens-writers-challenge
November 18, 2019 – Shelved as: australian-author
November 18, 2019 – Shelved
November 18, 2019 –
page 48
November 20, 2019 –
page 129
November 22, 2019 –
page 192
November 23, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by M (new)

M - The long hot spell I recently read Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, a collection of biographical essays for which Heiss was the editor. It was an eye opener.

Lisa So glad you liked it. Heiss is a hero of mine:)

Jennifer (JC-S) M wrote: "I recently read Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, a collection of biographical essays for which Heiss was the editor. It was an eye opener."

I agree. An eye-opener, and a thought-provoker.

Jennifer (JC-S) Lisa wrote: "So glad you liked it. Heiss is a hero of mine:)"

She's becoming one of mine as well :-)

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