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Book Reviews 1

Over My Tracks by Evelyn Crawford as told to Chris Walsh, Publisher: Penguin

Without a doubt my favourite recent read.
The book gives an insight into the remarkable life of this Aboriginal woman growing up in Australia in the 1930's through to the time the book was written in the early 1990's.
This really is a great story. The photographs and hand drawn maps in the book really help conjure up a feel for the area and the time. Perhaps because I'd just got back from Australia when I read this book, it had me poring over my atlas, following her and her family on their travels round the country.

As a young child, Evelyn Crawford lived happily with her family in and around Yantabulla, New South Wales. Here she is nurtured and taught traditional aboriginal ways.
By the time she is eight or nine, circumstances force her and her family move to live on a Mission, set up for the "protection" of Aboriginal people. Here there is "nothin' to look forward to". She and other Aboriginal people face much racism and cruelty at the hands of the white settlers who ran this and other missions all over Australia. Evelyn and her family move back to Yantabulla after making a daring escape from the mission, taking some other children with them at the request of their families. Aboriginal people were not "permitted" to leave the mission. The adults could have left - they would have to leave their children behind though.

Evelyn begins her life as a young adult fending for herself in the outback, working as a cattle drover. In time, she marries and has her own family. From the mid 1970's she becomes an active and respected educationalist. Her determined struggle against the white Australian establishment brings better understanding and wider opportunities for Aboriginal students.

book cover - Over My Tracks

Anita and Me by Meera Syal, Publisher: Flamingo

This is Meera Syal's first and brilliantly funny novel. Set in the sixties, it tells the story of Meena, the nine year old daughter of the only Punjabi family in the mining village of Tollington near Wolverhampton.
There are regular gatherings of Meena's "Aunties" and "Uncles" and "cousins" in Tollington. Although Meena enjoys these occasions she also desperately wants to be accepted by Anita Rutter, and her "gang" of other village kids. Meena is a child growing up caught between Indian and British culture. Meera Syal deals with these issues in a realistic and extremely witty fashion.

 

book cover - Anita and Me

My Place by Sally Morgan, Publisher: Freemantle Arts Centre Press

An extremely moving story of Sally Morgan's life and the discovery of her Aboriginal heritage.

I found the first half of this book pretty depressing. The author Sally Morgan's early life gave her little or no positive images of her Aboriginal heritage. In fact she does not find out she is Aboriginal at all until she hits her early twenties. As the book progresses you come to understand the reasons why her grandmother and mother attempted to hide her heritage from her in order to "protect" her. Gradually Sally Morgan manages to encourage her grandmother, mother and mother's Uncle Arthur to tell their stories. She discovers something of her family's history of separation from each other, imposed on them by the white owners of the cattle station on which they were born.

book cover - My Place

Coffee will make you black by April Sinclair, Publisher: Avon Books

This book spans 5 years in the life of Jean Stevenson or "Stevie" as she is known, an African-American girl growing up in Chicago. The story starts with an adolescent Stevie in the spring of 1965. Follow Stevie's journey through her high school years. All that stuff about puberty, changing relationships with friends and family, exploring sexuality and generally coming of age. All told in an extremely humorous, touching and down to earth way. A great story to go with the great title! Thanks to Donna (a.k.a. Flavour D) for putting me onto this author.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't wait to read the sequel, Ain't gonna be the same fool twice.

Available in all good bookshops (though you might have to get it on order it's pretty popular!).

 

book cover - Coffee Will Make You Black

How Stella got her groove back by Terry McMillan, Publisher: Penguin

This is a really uplifting book about falling in love (remember what that's like??!!). If you saw the film and didn't enjoy it don't be put off. The book is brilliant! (I loved it anyway).
The main character, Stella is a powerful dynamic woman in a high powered job, bringing up her son on her own. It's been a long time since she's had any real love interest.
Usually very sensible, Stella decides on impulse to take a trip to Jamaica. Here she meets and falls in love with Winston.
Far from being gooey and sentimental this is a realistic, sensual and funny portrayal of the highs and lows of being in love. The back drop is the beautiful island of Jamaica. Added fun is provided in the portrayal of Stella's relationship with her two sisters.

If ever your spirits are flagging this book is an easy,
lighthearted read. A guaranteed pick-you-up.

 

book cover - How Stella Got Her Groove Back

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