One of the joys after I finished my history degree was reading a book from cover to cover. This is the way most authors expect people to read their books, but when studying or working I found the pressure of deadlines meant that I simply mined a book for information through the index or a reference in another article or book. Worse still, my reading was terribly skewed towards male authors. At the beginning of 2012 writer, Elizabeth Lhuede started the Australian Women Writers Challenge to encourage bloggers to read more books by Australian women and to write reviews on their blogs and Good Reads. I joined and have enjoyed reading and reviewing histories, biographies and memoirs by Australian women for the last five years.
This year I have been working and have also been researching for my book about the beliefs of Australian men during World War I. I thought it would be a quiet year for book reviewing on this blog, but the universe had other plans. At the tail end of 2015 I stayed at a Canberra hotel which just happened to supply a history about the hotel written by Australian women historians in each room. So I started 2016 on this blog with a review for the Challenge – ‘A Quirky Hotel with a History’.
This year I wanted to make a concerted effort to review more books by indigenous authors and authors from diverse backgrounds. Each year I participate in Lisa Hill’s ‘Indigenous Literature Week’ which she hosts during NAIDOC Week. But reading indigenous authors should not be a once a year ritual. Indigenous authors should be read throughout the year.
I reviewed three books by indigenous authors this year. Larissa Behrendt’s latest book, Finding Eliza was a well-researched and written book I reviewed in February. I enjoyed reading about Lizzie Marrkilyi Ellis’ life in central Australia in her book, Pictures From My Memory and I read Rita and Jackie Huggins’ classic, Auntie Rita. The lives depicted in these books and the use of language by the authors were quite different. Reading just one book by an Aboriginal author is not sufficient.
I also reviewed the memoirs of Manijeh Saatchi – an Australian who was a refugee from Iran. This was an emotional book to read and quite difficult to write about. I wanted to allow readers to experience the book for themselves and I needed to be careful to avoid triggering stereotypes.
I finished the year by reviewing two biographies by Brenda Niall. I enjoyed reading these biographies about Australian Irish Catholic clerics. You can read my review of The Riddle of Father Hackett on this blog and my review of her award-winning biography of Melbourne’s Archbishop Mannix on the Newtown Review of Books. Newtown Review of Books was founded by Jean Bedford and Linda Funnell in March 2012. It has been a source of well-written reviews and thus made a welcome contribution to the diversity of reviewing in Australia. Each year I try to write a review as my contribution and so that I can get their expert feedback about my reviewing.
So I have achieved my goal by writing seven reviews for the Challenge this year and I am looking forward to participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2017.