This book was sent to me to review by Magabala Books. It comes out in July – so very timely – and will be $22.99.
I am an Anglo Australian. My most recent migrant ancestor is maybe 4 or 5 generations back. I am a history teacher. And I live on stolen land. I benefit every day from the fact that indirectly each of my ancestors (and directly, in a couple of cases) contributed to the displacement of Indigenous Australians.
Ambelin Kwaymullina has produced what the media release calls a “prose-style manifesto”, and what I would describe as a free-verse lesson about the past and the present and the future. She’s also responsible for that gorgeous cover and the internal images that help make this a lovely object as well as a powerful text.
Kwaymullina covers so much stuff that I want everyone to experience that I’m tempted to re-hash everything she says… which would be, as she herself points out, a white woman re-interpreting an Indigenous woman and that’s exactly the sort of thing that really needs not to exist. (I’m also currently reading Aileen Moreton Robinson’s Talkin’ Up to the White Woman, so… yeh.) So let me say that she makes it very clear – in case there was any doubt in the reader’s mind – about the original ownership of this land we call Australia; about the ongoing problems of the way we settlers talk about the land and its original inhabitants; and also points ways forwards as to how all of the people now living here might actually make it work. For everyone. As the blurb says, this is a “beautifully articulated declaration… a must-read for anyone interested in decolonising Australia.”
There are two bits that particularly got to me. Firstly, as a history teacher, Kwaymullina’s discussion of time is breath-taking (pp12-14): her description of linear time, where “Things that happened / a hundred years ago / are further away / than things that happened yesterday” – and is “weaponised against Indigenous peoples” and gives “the illusion of progress / regardless of whether / anything has changed”. And it’s that last bit that took my breath away. Then she speaks of Indigenous systems where “time is not linear” – cycles, instead, and “as susceptible / to action and interaction / as any other life”. And then she points out that cyclical time is a gift and a responsibility because “The change has not been lost / for justice / for change” and I nearly cried. I have never thought of time like that and never realised that it was even possible that life could work like that.
Secondly, Kwaymullina has a very pointed section about “Behaviours” from Settlers, and the four different ways we might act. Those who speak well and do nothing, the Saviours, the ‘discoverers’ (appropriating Indigenous stuff for their own life… and the change-makers. And this section made me really think about the ways that I act, and have acted, and intend to act.
Look. This book is 64 pages of free verse that will gently and pointedly make you think about yourself and and your ways of thinking and your understanding of history and the possibilities of the future. I will read this book again and again, I will read it to my students, I will share it with other people, I will tell other people to read it. Every household should have a copy of this and I don’t use the word ‘should’ lightly.
In which Alex and Tansy debrief Alisa on their ContinuumX hijinks, and a crowdfunding scheme unfolds… please admire our lovely new logo thanks to longtime listener Terri and her ninja cupcake skills! You can get us at iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.
Ditmars, Norma, etc etc. Con report! Book launches, panels…
Literary Guests of Honour: Ambelin Kwaymullina & Jim C Hines (speeches not available online yet, will link when we can)
Check out also the great Continuum X Twitter Storify
As mentioned by Ambelin in her GOH speech, the Australia Council guidelines on writing about Indigenous culture and people, which were formulated by Indigenous people.
What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: The Gods of Wheat Street; Vaginal Fantasy (The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay);
Alex: Kitty and Cadaver, Narrelle M Harris; Vanity and Valour, Mary Robinette Kowal; Vox Day and Ted Chiang; Edge of Tomorrow (and X Men: Days of Future Past)
Tansy: Lightspeed Magazine Women Destroy Science Fiction, Seanan Maguire “Each to Each.”
And our cake logo winners! It’s Terri! Because we never knew how much we needed to be a cupcake until we became one. We hope we were delicious.
New way to support Galactic Suburbia via our Patreon page – help us cover our running costs, & if we hit $50 per podcast we will commit to regular Spoilerific Club podcasts! plus other incentives, for you and for us.
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