Indigenous Literature Week 1-8 July 2012

Warning: This post contains references to Aboriginal people who are now deceased. The books referred to in this post may also contain references and images of deceased Aboriginal people.

… and for those who are don’t know why this warning is necessary  an explanation is given in this transcript of ABC TV’s Media Watch program.


Indigenous Literature Week – what a great initiative! Lisa Hill, who writes the highly regarded ANZ LitLovers LitBlog is encouraging people to read a book by an indigenous author in recognition of NAIDOC week, 1-8 July and to review it either on Good Reads or a blog.  This is not restricted to the reading of books by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors. Lisa Hill encourages people to read books written by any indigenous author irrespective of where in the world they come from.

I will be doing my bit to support this.  It so happens that my large ‘To Be Read’ pile includes a book by Australian Aboriginal author, John Maynard.  So a review of his, Fight for Liberty and Freedom will appear on this blog soon.

Why don’t you also participate in this?  Show your support by signing up on the ANZ LitLovers page and start reading.  Lisa Hill has made a list of literature written by indigenous authors that you can choose from. For those who prefer non-fiction, I have compiled a list of histories and biographies written by indigenous authors below. But please read this caveat first…

Firstly, I am not an expert in this area.  I am not an indigenous person, nor has the historical research I have done over the last three years directly covered issues relating to indigenous history. However, I believe that it is very important that wherever we live, we should learn about the culture and history of the local indigenous people. This is crucial if we are to build a more harmonious world.  For this reason I did cover quite a bit of history about indigenous/settler relations in colonies such as Australia in my undergraduate degree.

As I discussed in my post, It’s Not Just a List, identity is a fraught issue.  I accept how others identify themselves.  The authors on my list have identified themselves as being indigenous. This list is by no means exhaustive, in fact it is embarrassingly incomplete.  If you have any suggestions about other books that should be added to it, please let me know in a comment on this post so that I can update the list. Feel free to add to suggest the work of an indigenous writer who is not Australian.

Thirdly, when considering indigenous contributions to the recording and analysis of history we need to ask ourselves what is history?  Professor Peter Read raised this issue when I asked him for advice about compiling this list.  Referring to the Aboriginal poet, Joy Janaka Wiradjuri Williams, whose life, Peter Read has recently explored in a recently released biography, Read pointed out that poets also address historical subjects. Can historical recount and analysis occur in a poetical form?  Let’s turn this question around.  Why can’t history be written in poetical form?  The fact that poetry is not a traditional form through which western historians convey their work does not mean that it cannot be done this way.

This is the whole point of reading authors of diverse cultural backgrounds.  Our understanding of the issues and the artistic forms used to convey them become much richer and deeper when we consider the contributions of people who come from a different cultural perspective.  We are challenged when we read their work.  This stretches our thinking.  If you would like to stretch your thinking on this further and don’t mind a dense read, you could tackle the introduction to Chris Healy’s book, From the ruins of colonialism: history as social memory, (Cambridge; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

So with those caveats I present a very incomplete list of histories, biographies and autobiographies written by indigenous writers…

Briscoe, Gordon, Racial Folly: a Twentieth-Century Aboriginal Family, (ANU E Press, 2010).

Clarke, Banjo as told to Camilla Chance, Wisdom Man, (Ringwood, Melbourne: Penguin Australia, 2005).

Flick, Isabel and Heather Goodall, Isabel Flick, (Allen & Unwin, 2004).

Foley, Dennis and Ricky Maynard, Repossession of Our Spirit, (Aboriginal History Inc, 2001).

Harrison, Eileen, Black Swan: a Koorie Woman’s Life, (Allen & Unwin, 2011).

Hegarty, Ruth, Is that you, Ruthie?, (University of Queensland Press, 2003).

Heiss, Anita, Am I Black Enough for You?, (Random House, 2012).

Hodgson, Elizabeth, Skin Painting, (University of Queensland Press, 2008).

Howarth, Kate, Ten Hail Marys, (University of Queensland Press, 2010).

Huggins, Rita and Jackie Huggins, Auntie Rita,(Aboriginal Studies Press, 2010).

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby and Pam Johnston, A Journey into Bundjalung Country, (Kempsey, NSW: 198?). For some background about Ruby Langford-Ginibi’s work, read Carole Ferrier, ‘Ruby Langford Ginibi and the Practice of Auto/biography‘.

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby, All My Mob, (UQP, 2007); ISBN 978-0-7022-3596-2.

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town, (Penguin, 2008) ISBN 978-0-7022-3595-5.

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby, Haunted by the Past, (Allen & Unwin, 1999); ISBN 1-86448-758-5.

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby, My Bundjalung People, (UQP, 1994); ISBN 0-7022-2637-8.

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby, Real Deadly, (Angus & Robertson, 1992); ISBN 0-207-17421-0.

Langford-Ginibi, Ruby and Blanca Fullana, John Barnes ed, Ruby Langford Ginibi in Conversation with Blanca Fullana, (Bundoora, Vic: La Trobe University, 1998).

Lester, Yami, Yami, the autobiography of Yami Lester, (Jukurrpa Books, IAD Press, 1993, reprinted 1995). Reviewed at ANZ LItLovers LitBlog.

McGee-Sippel, Lorraine, Hey Mum, What’s a Half-Caste?, (Broome:  Magabala Books, 2009).

Mailman, Keelen, The Power of Bones, (Allen & Unwin, 2014). Reviewed on Stumbling Through the Past.

Martin (Yaarna), Joan, as told to Bruce Shaw, A Widi Woman, (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2011).

Maynard, John, Fight for Liberty and Freedom: The origins of Australia Aboriginal activism, (Canberra;  Aboriginal Studies Press, 2007).

Morgan, Sally, My Place, (Fremantle Press, 1987).

Pascoe, Bruce, Wathaurong The People Who Said No, (Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, 2003).

Pascoe, Bruce, Dark Emu(Broome: Magabla Books, 2014). Reviewed on Stumbling Through the Past and Resident Judge of Port Phillip.

Pilkington, Doris Garimara, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, (University of Queensland Press, 2002).

Purcell, Leah, Black Chicks Talking, (Hodder, 2002).

Pryor, Boori Monty and Meme McDonald, Maybe tomorrow, (Penguin, 2010). Reviewed at the Whispering Gums blog.

Rubuntja, Wenten, The Town Grew Up Dancing (Jukurrpa Books, an imprint of IAD Press, 2002). Reviewed at ANZ LitLovers LitBlog.

Somerville, Margaret and Tony Perkins, Singing the Coast, (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2010).

South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, John Host and Chris Owen, “It’s Still in My Heart, This is My Country”: The Single Noongar Claim History, (University of Western Australia Press, 2009).

Wirrer-Georg Oochunyung, Fiona, Double Native(University of Queensland Press, 2012).

Other Places to Find Histories Written by Indigenous Authors

And there’s more!  Check out these lists for more books that I haven’t discovered yet:

Do you have any histories, biographies or autobiographies by indigenous authors to add to this list?  Are there other lists online of non-fiction books written by indigenous authors, which should be included in the links on this post?

25 thoughts on “Indigenous Literature Week 1-8 July 2012

  1. Thank you so much for your support! I will link to this post from my blog so that people can find your list easily too. How wonderful that the combined efforts of bloggers are spreading the word about indigenous writing!


  2. Pingback: More resources for 2012 Indigenous Literature Week at ANZLitLovers « ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  3. Hi Yvonne. I don’t know how far back you want to go, but I recommend the works of Ruby Langford Ginibi, a Bunjalung woman from Northern NSW. Here are her books (as clipped and pasted from Wikipedia)
    Don’t Take Your Love to Town, (Penguin, 1988); ISBN 978-0-7022-3595-5
    Real Deadly, (Angus & Robertson, 1992); ISBN 0-207-17421-0
    My Bundjalung People, (UQP, 1994); ISBN 0-7022-2637-8
    Haunted by the Past, (Allen & Unwin, 1999); ISBN 1-86448-758-5
    All My Mob, (UQP, 2007); ISBN 978-0-7022-3596-2
    A Journey into Bundjalung Country, with Pam Johnston
    Ruby Langford Ginibi, co-authored with John Barnes and Blanca Fullana


    • Thankyou for your contributions. As you can see I’ve managed to track all the books down. I suspect that I’ll be coming back to this list for some time to come to pick things out to read.

      Thinking about it I don’t care how far I go back in the list. Something written years ago would be just as valid as something written in the last year. I’m not really concerned about the length of the list as people can use ctl F to find things, or can pick something at random.


  4. Hey Mum, what’s a half-caste? by Lorraine McGill-SIppel
    Listening to Country by Ros Moriarty (this isn’t written by an Aboriginal woman but she is married to an Aboriginal man and it is about visiting country and being involved in women’s business).
    Black Swan: a Koorie Woman’s Life by Eileen Harrison


    • Thanks Scarlett. I didn’t have Black Swan on the list so I have now added. There are many, many histories/biographies about indigenous lives written by non-indigenous people. For this list I would like to focus on writing by indigenous people themselves.


  5. Great list … thanks for it. There’s also Boori Monty Pryor’s Maybe tomorrow which I reviewed in the early days of my blog. Another book – not quite memoir but indigenous women talking about their lives – is Leah Purcell’s Black chicks talking. And finally, partly a memoir (I believe) is Anita Heiss’s Am I black enough for you. (I haven’t read this one though)


    • Sorry… messed up the reblog 😦 and ended up writing a small post with links to this blog and Lisa Hills which I’ve also tweeted. Thanks to both of you. Cheers.


  6. Pingback: Indigenous Literature Week 2012 | Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

  7. Great post.

    I’d highly recommend both Maybe Tomorrow by Boori Monty Pryor and Am I Black Enough by Anita Heiss. Compelling and informative.

    In addition I’d suggest Maralinga – essentially a picture book for older kids, definitely makes for compelling reading. Also Our World from Magabala Books presenting the one arm point community school (their life, traditions and culture) is a great one for younger children. It has attracted some awards.


    • Thankyou for suggesting children’s books. It is just as important for children to read histories written by indigenous authors as it is for adults.


  8. Pingback: Wrapping up Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers « ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

    • In the post above Lisa Hill at the ANZ LitLovers LitBlog wraps up Indigenous Literature Week with the hope that it will become an annual event – encore that! Please check out her blog for other (fiction) books written by indigenous authors as well as to links to other great lists of books by indigenous writers. I hope to continue to add to this list of histories/biographies written by indigenous authors with the assistance of you wonderful readers!


  9. Pingback: Wrapping up Indigenous Literature Week 2013 at ANZ LitLovers | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  10. Pingback: Wrapping up Indigenous Literature Week 2014 at ANZ LitLovers | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  11. Hi Yvonne, I have two more that I read this year to add to this list please: Yami, the autobiography of Yami Lester, Jukurrpa Books, IAD Press, 1993, reprinted 1995, ISBN: 9781864650529 and The Town Grew Up Dancing by Wenten Rubuntja. Jukurrpa Books, an imprint of IAD Press, ISBN: 9781864650426. (Reviews of both are on my blog).


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