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).
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).
Pilkington, Doris Garimara, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, (University of Queensland Press, 2002).
Purcell, Leah, Black Chicks Talking, (Hodder, 2002).
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?