Good Reading : February 2007
Indigenous literature in Australia has shaken off the undervalued shackles and is stepping forward into the vast light, being recognised and celebrated in a white- dominated industry. Each year more and more stories are being bound and bookshelved, reviewed and read, hopefully stir ring something in the belly along the way. In the last five years, more and more authors have emerged. They are at the vanguard of a renaissance in Indigenous literature in Australia, one that’s taking our social issues to the heart of the matter, scrapping the stigma and moving beyond the genre-pulling, box-putting and emotional rollercoaster that has gone with the ter ritory. Writing Indigenous story, being an Indigenous author, is never only about the writer and the text; responsi- bility to community is integral to the act of writing. So much of what is written mir rors our lives, our understanding, our past and our hope for the future, the implications of being Indigenous in Australia. We are getting political and social messages across through humour, love, passion, and through the humanity and universality of struggle and hope. The demand for Indigenous stories is growing, and Indigenous authors are flocking to tell these precious histories and narratives. Every year now, around 150 new titles by Indigenous authors are being published, by mainstream publishing houses such as Allen & Unwin, the University of Queensland Press and Fremantle Arts Centre Press, and by specialist Indigenous presses such as IAD (Institute for Aboriginal Development) Press, Aboriginal Studies Press, Magabala Books, Black Ink Press, Backroom Press and Indij Readers. It’s difficult to separate contemporary Indigenous literature in Australia from its predecessors; ‘contemporary’ for Indigenous people includes part of the colonial experience, citizenship for us mob only having been around for four decades. Until then Indigenous people in Australia were still very much held under the oppressor, who silenced our stories. The undervaluing of Indigenous experience also stemmed from the lack of identifying of wider Australia with the land and its custodians and their history. The new acceptance of Indigenous writing finally matches the exposure of other, long-accepted strands of Australian literature. The godfathers and godmothers such as Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal), Archie Weller, Kevin Gilbert, Lionel Fogarty, Jack Davis and Xavier Herbert wrote stories that cannot be separated into old and new – they obliterate time, the struggles suffered then are still struggles suffered now, stories of then are as potent and as valuable as story for now. The messages have not changed, but their power, swiftness and Aboriginal Studies Press Our award-winning books aim to change the face of Australia. They include biography and history, and our best-selling Aboriginal Australia map. Visit www.aiatsis.gov.au/asp or call 02 6261 4200 Be introduced to a host of new companions like Alec Kruger — from our past and shared present; lively languages and cultural insights bringing fresh meaning to our physical and social environments. Visit www.iad.edu.au/press or call 08 8951 1334 IAD Press black voices speaking The recent proliferation of books by Indigenous writers is a cause for celebration: at last, Aboriginal Australians are telling their tales to the wider community. Award- winning Indigenous writer TARA JUNE WINCH, author of Swallow the Air, points us in the direction of some exceptional books by her fellow Indigenous writers.
December / January 2007