Challenge Completed!

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 logo

This review is part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

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.

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12 thoughts on “Challenge Completed!

    • Thank you Sue. I have had a quiet year online which is what I expected at the beginning of the year so I am pleasantly surprised that I have managed to review this many books by year end.

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  1. Thanks for the mention, and yes, I agree wholeheartedly, reading indigenous lit ought not be a once-a year ritual. What I hope for, is to shine a light on it for a week so that people become more aware of the books available and add them to their wishlists and TBRs, for reading at any time of the year.
    I’m guessing that even though the Niall bios are only partly in the era you are researching, that they will have contributed to your research a bit? I thought Mannix was magnificent…
    I wonder who she will write about next!

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    • I hope that my comment about your Indigenous Literature Week does not read like a criticism Lisa. Your initiative focussed my attention on this issue and is what has encouraged me to more extensive reading of indigneous authors.

      Yes, the Niall biographies did help with providing some background context on the Australian Irish Catholic world in the period in which my men lived. Like you, I read the book because I generally love Brenda Niall’s biographies – True North being the exception. Niall is getting on in the years so I am wondering if Mannix will be her last.

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      • Oh, say it is not so! I hoped against hope that there was one more book to come from Shirley Hazzard but it was not to be, but she was older than Niall, I think…
        *smile* Actually, I read your comment as a compliment, that my little initiative was having the desired effect! It’s like the AWW challenge, it will have succeeded when it’s not needed any more.
        BTW I am reading a beaut history of female journalism at the moment. It’s called Australian Women War Reporters: Boer War to Vietnam and its by historian Josephine Baker. One to add to your list of female historians:)

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  2. Perhaps you might also like Two Sisters, the story in their own words of two Walmajarri women, amongst the last to come out of the Great Sandy Desert. One of my favourite books of 2016 (thankyou Lisa).

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  3. Thanks for participating in the challenge again this year, Yvonne, and for all your help in previous years behind the scenes and as a History, Memoir, Biography roundup editor. Good luck with finishing the book and I look forward to more interesting reviews next year.

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    • And thank you Elizabeth for founding the Challenge and putting so much time into it! The Challenge has made a big difference to my view on life and the focus of this blog.

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  4. Pingback: 2016: My year’s reading in biography | A Biographer in Perth

  5. I am very glad you doing the hard yards regarding the expressions of religious belief recorded by Australian soldiers in their diaries while on active duty. I was trying very hard to find evidence of how the Allied soldiers in France felt about Christmas, peace and sharing with German troops, mostly between Christmas Eve and New Years Day 1914. Undoubtedly the men were cautious about what they wrote for the reasons you found …and because of the very real fear of being found treasonous .

    When the post is finally published, I imagine most of my information will come from Allied soldiers who survived to tell the story verbally. Not from diaries and letters.

    Happy, healthy 2017!

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