Growing up Aboriginal in Australia edited by Anita Heiss

Amy Growing Up AboriginalWhat a brilliant idea, to ask a diverse range of Aboriginal people to tell their stories of growing up. Through these stories we experience the connection to country, and revel in the beauty of Australian places, we gain an insight into the oppression of racism, overt, casual, relentless, and the terrible pain and damage suffered by the Stolen Generations and those who followed. It’s enlightening, joyful, angry, poetic, tragic, proud and hopeful. A really important book.

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No more boats by Felicity Castagna

Amy No More BoatsSet during 2001, when the Tampa lay off Australia’s shores and the government refused to let the refugees come to Australia, No More Boats is the story of a man, once a migrant himself, whose life is turned upside down, and he loses his way. The ghost of a friend tells him to paint ‘No More Boats’ in his front yard, and he and his family must come to terms with what is happening to him, to themselves and to Australia. It is a quiet and thoughtful novel, with little action or resolution, but which highlights the complex issues at the heart of families, Australian society, and the cold, hard policies about our borders.

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Mrs M by Luke Slattery

Ali Mrs MThis is the story of  Mrs Elizabeth MacQuarie, second wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, reformist Governor of New South Wales. The novel starts in Scotland at the end of Elizabeth’s story, not the beginning as you might imagine. So the story is a reflection of her journey and life in the colony and the shared dream of reform that Lachlan and Elizabeth planned when they came to Sydney.

This is a fictional account of historical figures and I am not sure of the reality of Elizabeth’s relationship with the architect who designed and built her famous ‘Chair’ at Sydney harbour. In the book her much older husband is often busy and distracted giving the younger  architect the appeal that makes this story  both romantic and intriguing. However there are personalities who wish to continue the brutal control that has been the norm of the colony , contradictory to the MacQuarie’s more benign influences which ultimately causes the downfall of the MacQuarie reign in the colonies.

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Stephanie Alexander’s kitchen garden companion : cooking by Stephanie Alexander

Ali StephanieStephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion Cooking is a handy book when you have an excess of produce from the garden! If you still have some pumpkins left, this is a great spring recipe. Very tasty it was too! It’s so easy to Google recipes these days but it is nice to sit and drool over a lovely recipe book which this is. This is the perfect book for using up the excess seasonal produce.

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Goldstone

Amy GoldstoneAnother beautiful, sad, complex and moving film about Indigenous policeman, Jay Swan, solving a mystery in an outback town. Jay Swan, burdened with grief, is struggling to keep himself together as he searches for a missing girl, and meaning for his life. The cast is stellar, the scenery is stunning, and the story is about human trafficking, land rights, racism, corruption, and a place to belong.

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The lost dog by Michelle de Kretser

Amy The Lost DogAn English lecturer, Tom, is staying in the Victorian bush, trying to finish the book he is writing, when his dog goes missing. From that starting point we go back and forth, to India and Melbourne, to the past and the present, exploring Tom’s life and relationships. There is mystery, but it’s not about what happens, but about place, love, relationships with parents and lovers, art, poetry, and belonging. The language is beautiful, and it’s full of thoughtful insights on things like ageing, and consumerism.

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Mystery Road

Amy Mystery RoadThis is the movie that came before the television series. Having recently watched the television series, I was keen to find out Jay Swan’s back story. Recently returned to his home town after time in the big city, Jay doesn’t fit in with the other policemen, all white, or his own community. He is estranged from his wife and daughter, and seems to be the only one who cares about the murder of a young black girl. The cinematography is striking, capturing the starkly beautiful countryside. The story is bleak and violent, but the film is somehow quiet and contemplative, reflecting the complexity of the issues that face outback towns and Australia as a whole. The mystery itself may not be neatly tied up at the end, but the performances and thoughtful story make it a very satisfying film.

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