Monday musings on Australian literature: Listen to Indigenous Australian authors

BannerSome years, I’ve written an indigenous Australian focused Monday Musings post to start and conclude NAIDOC Week and Lisa’s ANZLitLovers Indigenous Literature Week. I have been researching a topic for this year’s second post, but it’s taking longer than I expected, so have decided to hold it over to next year. Meanwhile, having committed to a second post, I decided to change tack and instead share some podcasts comprising interviews with Indigenous Australian authors …

So, I’ve put together a sample list of interviews conducted this year with Indigenous Australian writers. They are from ABC RN programs (AWAYE!, The Book Show, and Conversations) and The Wheeler Centre. You can search those sites for earlier interviews with these, and other writers.

I am listing them alphabetically by author to make it easy for you to see if your favourite is here! And I am providing website links, but most if not all of these will be available through podcast services on tablets and smart phones.

Tony Birch

Fighting for family in Tony Birch’s The White Girl, The Book Show, (ABC RN), 24 June 2019, 17mins

Book coverBirch speaks to Claire Nichols “about trauma, bravery and writing stories of the past” regarding his latest book The white girl (my review) He discusses, among other things, the “contradictory and unpredictable” way in which the Act (which limited the freedom of indigenous people to travel, and made children wards of the state) was enforced in towns, and how this increased the level of insecurity and anxiety felt by indigenous people, somehting experienced by his character Odette Brown. The reason for this unpredictability could be incompetence in the local police, or the presence of a genuinely benign policeman, or because there was no law in the place or town.

Stan Grant

Book coverConversations: Stan GrantConversations (ABC RN), 24 April 2019, 52mins

Coinciding with the publication of his latest book Australia Day (about which I reported in another conversation with him), Grant talks with Richard Fidler about his book, and specifically his thoughts about the push to “change the date” of Australia Day. He believes, as the show’s promo says, “that … for now, 26 January is all that we are and all that we are not” and thinks that there are deeper questions to discuss about who we are than simply changing the date. I like his comment on protest – his dislike of “certainty” and of “slogans” – because I feel similarly uncomfortable, much as I agree with the heart of most protests. “I like to live in the space between ideas”, he says.

Melissa Lucashenko

Melissa Lucashenko in conversation at Sydney Writers Festival, AWAYE! (ABC RN), 11 May 2019, 33mins

Melissa Lucashenko, Too Much LipConversation with AWAYE!’s Daniel Bowning, including Lucashenko reading from Too much lip (my review). The show’s promo says “we talk about our grannies, the meaning of place, the role of humour in serious literary work, the fetishisation of Black suffering and why she would never kill off one of her characters.” Lucashenko talks about how the book is about oppressed people (of whatever ilk) standing up. (As she says on another podcast, “if you don’t fight you lose”.) Because she included some negative depiction of indigenous lives (particularly black-on-black violence), she expected backlash from the black community, but it hasn’t come. She feared being honest about this issue at this time in Australia’s history – was it the right time, she wondered – but then realised that “silence is violence”. She says the job of the writer being “to see what’s going on and write about it”.  Oh, and she wanted to write a funny book – which she certainly did.

Other interviews with Lucashenko on this book are available on ABC RN’s The Book Show, including one after its Miles Franklin shortlisting (12 July 2019, 10mins).

Bruce Pascoe

Book coverA truer history of Australia, AWAYE!, 25 May 2019, 12mins

Pascoe talks about Young dark emu, his junior version of his bestselling Dark emu (my review). It includes a reading by Pascoe from the book. He talks about the importance of teaching the true history of Australia to young people in schools, arguing that “ignorance makes you scared, knowledge makes you wonder”.

Alison Whittaker

Book coverAlison Whittaker in conversation at Sydney Writers Festival, AWAYE!, 18 May 2019, 32mins

Whittaker talks about (and reads from) her latest work, Blakwork, reviewed for Lisa’s ILW week by Bill and Brona. She talks about the “transformative power of poetry” and says her aim is “to provoke and upset white readers because they are the main readers” of poetry. This issue, that we middle class, white, educated people are the main readers of indigenous writing, is something I often think about. It’s a complex interaction, methinks. Whittaker talks about the paradox of using the English language, the language of the imperialists, to convey feelings and ideas from a very different culture.

An aside. I appreciated her discussion of the word “important” as in, “an important book”. I agree with her dislike of it, and avoid it in my reviews, albeit the temptation can be great. She says that “important is not an interesting thing to say”. The challenge for me, often, is to find the “interesting thing to say” that is also succinct!

Tara June Winch

Book coverDocumenting ‘the old language’ in Tara June Winch’s The Yield, The Book Show (ABC RN), 15 July

Winch talks to Claire Nichols about her new book, The yield (reviewed by Lisa/ANZlitLovers), and also reads from the book. In the book, the character Albert Gondiwindi is writing a dictionary of Wiradjuri language. He says that “every person around should learn the word for country in the old language, the first language – because that is the way to all time, to time travel!” Given the current interest in reviving indigenous languages, and the criticality of using our own language to express our own culture, this book sounds really timely.

Alexis Wright

Alexis Wright, TrackerAlexis Wright in conversation with Elizabeth McCarthy, Books and Arts at Montalto, The Wheeler Centre, 14 January 2019 (though recorded in 2018), 1hr 3mins

Wright talks to Elizabeth McCarthy about her collective biography Tracker, which won the 2018 Stella Prize and the Non-Fiction Book Award in the Queensland Literary Awards. The interview focuses mostly on Tracker Tilmouth himself, rather than on the form of the book, and the approach Wright took to writing it.

Do you listen to literary podcasts? If so, I’d love to hear your favourites.

25 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Listen to Indigenous Australian authors

  1. Just now completing my reading of the Tara June WINCH book The Yield which you have outlined here – fantastic. Reading on the bus replacing the train from Sydney to Tamworth (a broken coupling knocking the train out). Now in Tamworth hoping to catch up with Gomeroi elder and now local Len WATERS (a street in Ngunnawal (spelling?) named for his namesake WWII fighter pilot uncle – and a guide to the night skies as viewed by his Gomeroi (Gamilaraay) ancestors.

    • Thanks Jim … you’ve got the spelling right (although I understand there are discussions about that spelling, which is understandable since it originates in an oral language, eh?) I’m looking forward to reading that book, which probably won’t be for a couple of months. I have booked to see her at the Canberra Writers Festival though. It was a hard decision because I had to give up a time-clash panel with several authors I dearly wanted to hear too, but I loved Swallow the air, and want to support her too.

    • Hello Jim, you might also be interested in a new book called Our Mob Served which is an oral history of Indigenous servicemen and women, and Len Waters gets (more than) a mention. (I’ve just reviewed it on my blog).

      • Thanks for the reference, Lisa – much appreciated. Last year I attended some presentations at the Lake Macquarie Belmont Library Australian writers series – Peter Rees from Canberra spoke about his book just recently then published: The Missing Man – a full biography of fighter pilot Len Warers. One of Len’s daughters drive down from Brisbane to be present (she a senior education department bureaucrat -if I recall correctly). So many hidden stories still to come to light – as no doubt in Our Mob Served, too.

  2. Hi Sue, my fave literary podcasts are The Garret and The First Time Podcast.

    Astrid Edwards’s interview with Kim Scott when he was shortlisted for the 2018 Miles Franklin for Taboo is wonderful (as are her interviews with the other shortlistees, featured here):

    Also a great interview with Tony Birch about The White Girl, though note this has spoilers:

    The First Time’s interview with Claire Coleman is also worth a listen:

    • Hmm, I’m sure I replied to this when you posted it Angela, but somehow it hasn’t come through. That seems to be the trouble when you respond to your blog on a laptop or iPad or iPhone! Sometimes the right device doesn’t seem to know what the left or middle one is doing!

      What I wrote on one of those devices was that I nearly mentioned the Garret podcast, as I subscribe to it, but I didn’t quickly find a 2019 indigenous author one. So, I’m glad you recommended it (and found a 2019 one). I haven’t heard of The First Time, however, so am glad to have another one to check out.

      So, thanks very much for your comment, and big apologies for the delay in response. It wasn’t intended! l

  3. I read Swallow the Air last night. Astounding – WINCH was only 17 when she wrote it. As good as it was – The Yield is far more complex and wide-ranging and very much up-to-date – and there are strands of contemporary with aspects of 19th century history which lend power to the introduction to language. As for the setting – vaguely edge of Wiradjuri/Baakandji – but Narrandera and The Rock south of Wagga Wagga stand out – kinfolk live there I’ve climbed Kengal – it was a significant site – I can see it being woven into this story. Beautifully told.

  4. This is such a good idea, Sue. It will take me a good long while to hear them all because I have completely failed iPod 101 and therefore confine myself to listening to podcasts on my desktop, but now that these are all in one place, and I’m going to add the URL to the reading list, I won’t lose the links like I usually do.
    And I know that many people really love podcasts and listen to them all the time, so well done!

    • Thanks Lisa. I don’t listen to them a lot either, because, time. I tend to listen to the radio more. But we get our new car next month and I’m planning to get more into them on road trips. Can’t wait.

  5. Pingback: Reviews from Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ Litlovers 2019 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  6. Thank you for this list. Everytime I turn the radio on I catch the last few minutes of something really good. I’ll save this post and tune in as I drive around running errands.

  7. I should listen to podcasts, I know. And the Res Judge discusses a few interesting ones every week. But I don’t and I suspect the reason, with conversations anyway, is that I can’t interrupt and argue.

    • Haha Bill – I know I should too, but I listen to very few.

      However, don’t you yell at the TV or radio like we do when people say things we disagree with or don’t think is well thought through?

  8. Pingback: Reviews from Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ Litlovers 2020 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  9. Pingback: Reviews from Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ Litlovers 2020 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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