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    11 Jun 2020

    17 Books To Read If You Want To Support Blak Voices

    For both education and understanding.

    This list is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and it is, by no-means, exhaustive. But, if you've been wanting to read more Blak voices and educate yourself on racism in Australia, these may help you get started.

    I haven't read all of these books yet, but as I want to better my understanding of the Blak movement in Australia as well as uplift Blak voices, these are the ones I plan to read for the rest of 2020.

    1. The Yield by Tara June Winch

    Book cover featuring flying birds and the 2020 Stella Prize shortlist sticker
    Clare Aston/ BuzzFeed

    The Yield tells the fictional story of August Gondiwindi, returning home after the death of her grandfather, Albert, to find her home on the verge of being swept up by a mining company. But its main focus is on the Wiradjuri language — the impact of its loss and how Albert is trying to gain it back by writing a dictionary.

    Winch, a Wiradjuri woman, weaves August’s story in with the dictionary, using the descriptions to show the history and the meaning behind the individual words and language. The horrific actions of white people towards Aboriginal peoples, both in the past and in the present, is not shied away from. Instead, Winch offers a stark account of how Aboriginal peoples are ignored, abused and their cultural beliefs stomped on.

    By reading this, you'll start to gain an understanding of how language can shape a culture and why it's important to focus on the revitalisation of them. The Yield's final message is one of hope — that the language and identity can still be reclaimed.

    2. Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance by Banjo Woorunmurra and Howard Pedersen

    3. Growing up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Dr Anita Heiss

    4. Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling by Larissa Behrendt

    5. After Australia edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

    Book cover cartoon family on the side with their faces scratched out
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    After Australia is a collection of fictional short-stories by both Aboriginal writers and other writers of colour. The theme of this anthology was to imagine what Australia would look like in 2050, however the stories delve into the past, present and future as they try to figure out exactly where Australia is headed.

    The voice of Hannah Donnelly, a Wiradjuri writer, is interwoven through the stories as "interludes" and is especially strong and commanding. She has you sitting down and shutting up as her words leaps off the page on the first line, "I'm gonna educate you gronks. I get pissed off when white people wear the Aboriginal flag."

    It's an incredibly important read at the moment, with stories that touch on racism in a pandemic, the impact of invasion on multiple generations and climate disaster.

    6. A Rightful Place: A Road Map to Recognition edited by Shireen Morris

    Book cover
    BlackInc / Via blackincbooks.com.au

    This collection of essays aim to pave a road towards recognition, both culturally and constitutionally. It starts with the Uluru Statement From The Heart with essays also delving into history, law and culture. Some of the essays included are Recognising The First Nations by Warren Mundine and Self-Determination and the Right To Be Heard by Megan Davis.

    7. Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

    Book cover featuring small cartoon shark and "Miles Franklin Literary Award Winner 2019" sticker.
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    This fictional story is from the renowned writer Melissa Lucashenko, of Bundjalung and European heritage, who has received numerous awards for her works. Too Much Lip surrounds an Aboriginal family living in Northern NSW. The family has suffered inter-generational trauma caused by colonialism and issues of violence are mentioned throughout.

    The characters are flawed, real and Lucashenko doesn't shy away from showing the reader the true impacts invasion has had on Aboriginal communities across the country. An important read to help understand the nuances of racism in Australia today.

    8. Fight for Liberty and Freedom by John Maynard

    Book cover with Aboriginal Flag depicted waving in the top half
    Aboriginal Studies Press / Via aiatsis.gov.au

    Fight for Liberty and Freedom is an account of the first, all-Aboriginal activist group: The Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association. This book explores the association's creation, what they did, who they were and the reason why it was ultimately stopped. A book to read if you realise you don't know anything about the political history of Aboriginal peoples in Australia.

    9. Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiwl Kwaymullina

    Book cover, drawing of a crow sitting on a wooden fence
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    This ghost story is by a brother-sister team from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region. In it, Beth Teller — an Aboriginal girl who has recently died — can only be seen by her detective dad. He's not coping and Beth is trying to distract him. Most interestingly, the book switches between verse and prose.

    The mystery surrounds Isobel Catching — the focus of the verse sections — and Beth and her father have to figure out how she's involved with a fire that killed a man. The story touches on Australia's colonial history and its violence and is a way to open to both Blak prose and verse.

    10. I'm the One That Knows This Country by Jessie Lennon

    Aboriginal Studies Press / Via aiatsis.gov.au

    This book details the life of Jessie Lendon, a Matutjara woman born in the 1920s. The main story is about how, in the 1950s, Jessie and her family were caught by the fallout caused by British nuclear tests near Emu Fields. This would eventually effect her health, leading her to seek compensation.

    Books like these can open your eyes to atrocities dealt to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that you never knew about before.

    11. Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman

    12. Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor

    13. Am I Black Enough For You? by Anita Heiss

    14. Because A White Man'll Never Do It by Kevin Gilbert

    Book cover, hand holding sign "The only answer is to give them back their Land Rights and let the Aborigine try and rectify what the white man has done because a a white man'll never do it."
    Haper Collins / Via harpercollins.com.au

    Originally published in 1973, this book recounts colonial violence and the impact of invasion on Aboriginal peoples. The author, Kevin Gilbert was a co-founder of the Tent Embassy in Canberra and championed Aboriginal rights throughout his entire life.

    The book is still relevant today as it addresses problems that still haven't been resolved and offers solutions and ways we can make lasting changes.

    15. Blakwork by Alison Whittaker

    16. Does The Media Fail Aboriginal Political Aspirations? by Amy Thomas, Andrew Jakubowicz and Heidi Norman

    Book cover, two children standing in front of a fence
    Aboriginal Studies Press / Via aiatsis.gov.au

    This book is an examination lead by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people into 45 years of media responses to Aboriginal political goals. It's an analysis of how the media reports and frames stories to undermine their goals. Definitely a book to read to improve your own practice and so you can question the media you consume on a daily basis.

    17. And finally, Home by Larissa Behrendt

    University of Queensland Press / Via uqp.com.au

    This fictional novel is about a lawyer returning to her ancestral country for the first time — the place where her grandmother, Garibooli, was abducted in 1918. It tells the story of Garibooli and her family, highlighting how her displacement travels down the generations. A book to read if you still don't fully grasp the impact of the Stolen Generations.

    If you're wanting to expand your knowledge on racism further this essential reading guide for fighting racism post from the USA, gives a great list of books that you can read to broaden your views, combat your inner racism and help you better understand the inherent and systemic racism found all around the world.

    Or, if you're wanting a more exhaustive list on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and their books, check out this one the website called Creative Sprits.

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