30 Apr 2011

Feeling ashamed

I'm feeling a bit ashamed.

Well, quite guilty, really.

Well respected Wiradjuri Aussie author, Anita Heiss, has compiled a list of her favourite Indigenous authored books across genres: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children's, published plays and anthologies, to come up with a 'Best of' List of Indigenous Australian fiction. I'm feeling bad, because I haven't read even one book from this list.

Not one.

Oh! The shame!!

I have included three of them in Jemimah's school book list for later years: My Place, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Papunya School Book of Country and History, and I even have them on my bookshelf, but I haven't read them yet.

Here I am, boasting with the best of them of the number of books I've read on the BBC Book Challenge List, and I feel sanctimoniously superior when I read that most people have read only six of these books and I've read...well, heaps more than that - and yet I've read none of the books Anita believes to be the best of our own home grown Indigenous fiction at all!!

Oh dear.

So I'm going to do something about it. I am. I'm going to read the books on this list. Not all in a row, but eventually. I'm going to begin now, and I'm going to use my blog to keep myself accountable. I'm also going to use Anita's list to select books for Jemimah's school reading. I feel really sorry that all of our extensive study on Aboriginal Australia so far has been done utilising books written by non-Indigenous authors.

So here is Anita's BBC list. That's Black Book Challenge. Like the original BBC list, it's composed of 100 books, minus one. Anita has left that for her readers to fill in, but I think we should include one of her titles there, so that's what I'm going to do.

Anita’s 100 (less one) Black Book Choice list is:

1. Benang, Kim Scott
2. Bitin’ Back, Vivienne Cleven
3. Bridge of Triangles, John Muk Muk Burke
4. Butterfly Song, Terri Janke
5. Carpentaria, Alexis Wright
6. Digger J Jones, Richard Frankland
7. Every Secret Thing, Marie Mankara
8. Home, Larissa Behrendt
9. Long Time Now: stories of the Dreamtime, the here and now, Alf Taylor
10. Not Quite Men, No Longer Boys, Kenny Laughton
11. Pemulwuy: the rainbow warrior, Eric Wilmott
12. Shark, Bruce Pascoe
13. Swallow the Air, Tara June Winch
14. Sweet Guy, Jared Thomas
15. Sweet Water, Stolen Land, Philip McLaren
16. The Kadaitcha Sung, Sam Watson
17. Too Flash, Melissa Lucashenko
18. A Bastard Like Me, Charles Perkins
19. Aunty Rita, Rita and Jackie Huggins
20. Born a half-caste, Marnie Kennedy
21. Broken Dreams, Bill Dodd
22. Busted Out Laughing, Dot Collard and Beryl Harp
23. Don’t take your love to town, Ruby Langford Ginibi
24. Follow the rabbit proof fence, Doris Pilkington
25. Full Circle, Edie Wright
26. Forcibly Removed, Albert Holt
27. Grease and Ochre, Patsy Cameron
28. Hey Mum, What’s a half-caste? Lorraine McGee-Sippel
29. If Everyone Cared, Margaret Tucker
30. I’m the one who knows this country, Jessie Lennon
31. Is that you, Ruthie? Ruth Hegarty
32. Jinangga, Monty Walgar
33. Kakadu Man, Bill Neidjie
34. Karobran, Monica Clare
35. Life B’long Ali Drummond: a life in the Torres Strait, Samantha Faulkner with Ali Drummond
36. Love Against the Law, Tex and Nelly Camfoo
37. Me, Antman and Fleebag, Gayle Kennedy
38. Many Lifetimes, Audrey Evans
39. Maybe Tomorrow, Boori Monty Pryor
40. My Past, their future: stories from Cape Barren Island, Molly Mallett
41. My Place, Sally Morgan
42. Pride and Prejudice, Ida West
43. Shadow Lines, Stephen Kinnane
44. Songman : The Story of an Aboriginal Elder of Uluru, Bob Randall
45. Talking About Celia, Jeanie Bell
46. The N Word, Stephen Hagan
47. Through My Eyes, Ella Simon
48. This is my word, Magdeleine Williams
49. Unbranded, Herb Wharton
50. Wandering Girl, Glenyse Ward
51. When you grow up, Connie McDonald
52. Wisdom Man, Banjo Clarke
53. Wyndham Yella Fella, Reginald Birch
54. Windradyne: A Wiradjuri Warrior, Mary Coe
55. Yami: the autobiography of Yami Lester
56. Anonymous Premonition, Yvette Holt
57. Black Woman, Black Life, Kerry Reed-Gilbert
58. Blue Grass, Peter Minter
59. Dreaming in Urban Areas, Lisa Bellear
60. Holocaust Island, Graeme Dixon
61. Little Bit Long Time, Ali Cobby Eckermann
62. New and Selected Poems : Munaldjali, Mutuerjaraera, Lionel Fogarty
63. Post me to the Prime Minister, Romaine Moreton
64. Skin Painting, Elizabeth Hodgson
65. Smoke Encrypted Whispers, Samuel Wagan Watson
66. The Imprint of Infinity, Jennifer Martiniello
67. We Are Going, Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal)
68. Bush games and knucklebones, Doris Kartinyeri
69. Down the hole, Edna Tantjingu Williams and Eileen Wani Wingfield illustrated by Kunyi June-Anne McInerney
70. Down River: the Wilcannia Mob Story
71. Jalygurr : Aussie Animal Rhymes : Poems for Kids, Pat Torres
72. Little Platypus and the Fire Spirit, Mundara Koodang
73. Maralinga – The Anangu Story
74. Nanna’s Land, Delphine Sarago-Kendron
75. Papunya School Book of Country and History
76. Rain Flower, Mary Duroux
77. Tell me why, Sarah Jackson
78. The Cowboy Frog, Hylton Laurel
79. The Legend of the Seven Sisters, a traditional Aboriginal Story from Western Australia, May O’Brien and Sue Wyatt
80. The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point, Trina Saffioti
81. Wandihnu and the Dugong, Elizabeth and Wandihnu Wymarra
82. When I was little like you, Mary Malbunka
83. Yarning Strong series, various authors
84. Yinti, Jimmy Pike
85. Black Medea, Wesley Enoch
86. Bran Nue Dae, Jimmy Chi
87. The Cake Man, Robert Merritt
88. The Cherry Pickers, Kevin Gilbert
89. I Don’t Wanna Play House, Tammy Anderson
90. The Dreamers, Jack Davis
91. Stolen, Jane Harrison
92. Holding Up The Sky – Aboriginal Women Speak
93. Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, David Unaipon
94. Indigenous Australian Voices: A reader, Sabbioni, Jennifer; Schaffer, Kay & Smith, Sidionie.
95. Meanjin: Blak Times: Indigenous Australia, Minter, Peter (ed)
96. Macquarie PEN Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, Heiss and Minters (eds)
97. Skins: Contemporary Indigenous Writing, Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri and Douglas, Josie
98. Those Who Remain Will Always Remember: An Anthology of Aboriginal Writing, Brewster, Anne; van den Berg, Rosemary and O’Neill, Angeline (eds.) those who remain will always remember
99. Untreated

If you hope over to Anita's blog post, she's linked the books to publishers or book shops where possible. I know I'll find that helpful.

So there you are. My great omission. I'm going to better in the future, I am.

Any of you care to join me in reading some of the best fiction by Australian Indigenous writers? Leave me a message in the Comments if you do. I'd love the company. Besides, it could be fun!!

I'll be back with her list of children's titles soon.

Thanks, Anita.


  1. Like you I have never read any of these book nor have I ever seen them. Thank you so much for sharing this list, I will wander over to the blog you mention to find out more.

  2. I haven't read all these but I've read 3 or 4 plus I've read others ~ particularly the Dreamtime stories. Forget the painter's name but there was a most beautiful book of his work put out when I was younger with the Dreamtime story his work illustrated & I begged for a copy. I still have it. Will look it up for you & you can kill two birds with one stone! ☺

  3. I've read 2! Thanks for the list though - I'll be reading a few more.

  4. Gosh Jeanne, you should feel ashamed. I mean really..you haven't done anything in the last few months, you have had plenty of time to read the whole list!

    Cindy Bee

  5. Yeah, thanks Cindy Bee!!!!! :)

  6. If I can find any of them, I WOULD like to read some!

  7. Jeanne; the book I had in mind is Legends of the Dreamtime which is illustrated by Ainslie Roberts
    (totally gorgeous paintings which I think you & Jemimah will appreciate) Dreamtime stories retold by famous anthropologist C.P Mountford. First published 1965.

  8. oh thank you for sharing, more of us need to do so. :-)

  9. we only have 1 of those books and it was hard to find. I ended up ordering it from a place in the NT. But a list of books to look for is a great place to start, I always love your recommendations :-)

  10. Oh! I have read only two of these. I've read a few more that aren't on this list, mostly kid's stories: I'll wait for the next list to see if they're there.

    I'm quite keen to read more of these titles so I'll certainly join you in a read-along!

  11. one more thing, do you ever stop at Narana Creations when you're down that way (on Torquay Rd)? They've got a good selection of Indigenous books there. They're lovely people to deal with, too.

  12. Dear Jeanne,
    the picture book Papanya Country School that you have used is excellent. I know I was very moved when I read that book.

    I also have an Australian Picture book list



  13. Jeanne
    Only read a couple of these so thanks so much for printing the list! I'll also link to anita's list over at aussie book threads.

    wanting to add a powerful picture book and with fantastic illustrations.

    Idjhil - Helen Bell
    "story of a WA Aboriginal boy who at 9 is taken from his family in accordance with the official government policy at the time.


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