Saturday, April 26, 2014

Holiday Reads - something for everyone

So, one of my aims in doing more reading (apart from upping my cultured cred!) is to engage with Australian culture more.

Today I want to profile 4 books I've read recently that do just that.

Crooked Leg Road by Jennifer Walsh
In the way back past I taught intermediate aged children (11-13) and one of the challenges with this age is a) introducing them to new authors  and b) engaging them in literature they can read, that is relevant and not babyish - some of them arrive reading below their chronological age. Usually I would do this by reading aloud a whole book and then letting them loose on other books by that author. Crooked Leg Road works for me like this. It is set in Australia with male and female lead characters. It is a mystery and adventure. The chapters are short and readable and the action is fast paced and it is also appropriate for this age group. The characters are about the right age and they are behaving that way. I like that these are both believable and down to earth (no Hollywood soaps or sex here). Definitely one I'd recommend to a 'tween' who's looking for readable and engaging. Details - Allen&Unwin April 2014 RRP $14.99, also available as an ebook.

Women of Spirit by Anne Crawford
This is a book of true life collections of women who have lived, breathed and conquered true country living in Australia. Some were born to it others drawn to it - all have done it tough, survived and succeeded. Each chapter profiles a different women and the collection is varied. These are women who are still alive today and have made a real impact through their service and passion for the roles they have taken. By the time I finished reading this book I felt like I had the orange dust of the outback under my fingernails but I was equally relieved that I didn't! I'm not a country girl by any means the toughness, the isolation, all of it - so not me but I so enjoyed 'meeting' and being inspired by these women. Easy read because of the fact it is just a chapter each - pick it up for 10-20 minutes and you get through another character. I think men and women would get a lot from this book. I was especially pleased to see both Aboriginal and white Australians represented. Details - Allen&Unwin April 2014 RRP $29.99

Charlotte's Creek by Therese Creed
This is chic-lit Australian style. Again a thoroughly readable book with a really strong range of characters. Unlike your usual 'totally removed from real people's reality', this book delivers a strong message about the toughness and un-relentingness of outback life. It slips in some daunting home truths during an engaging story-line about an inexperienced, young governess who takes on the thankless job of teaching (or taming) some wild country children in a difficult environment. There's some romance and family drama and a lot more. Don't read the back of the book though - it gives too much information about the plot, which I don't like - a small taste test is what I want, not a major plot summary. (That's my only complaint though). A properly Aussie chic lit that doesn't try to be anything other than Australian and genuine. You can tell the author has lived the outback life. I even shed a couple of tears in the reading! Details - Allen&Unwin April 2014 RRP $29.99

The Power of Bones by Keelen Mailman
This is another outback book, (can you believe it? for a non-country girl such as myself). This autobiography is story of a woman, who is Aboriginal, who is the first such woman to run a station. This is a woman who is doing her bit for the land she traces all the way back to her ancestors, who is making a place for her people, her culture and her ways to integrate and be successful in present time. Keelen has lived anything but an easy life. She has worked hard and learned fast. Her writing style is just as I imagine she talks - sometimes rambling, it has that 'storyteller' style to it where you can almost hear a her voice and you are drawn in to the twists and turns of its conversational style. This is a book for anyone who's missed out on an easy upbringing, who's missed out on formal education, who's been down trodden or abused or forgotten or ignored. It's a book for victims and champions. It's a book for Australians and people who long to love and protect their own country and cultural ways.

As a mother I have found this book so challenging - you know that kid from the rough side with a potty mouth? That kid is possibly/probably dealing with abuse and difficulties I cannot begin to imagine and the smallest kindness might be something that stays with them their entire life. This book isn't an easy read - it is horrifying and heartbreaking and hopeful. More than those things it is real - Keelen is a woman of today and there are probably still children living childhoods similar to hers in this country and in NZ too. Whilst it is a book of success and triumph it is also for me a challenge to anyone who has lived a life of privilege - and by that I mean access to education, food in your tummy consistently and safe adults to look after you. Even though it's probably not the point of the book, more than anything this book has challenged me to think about how I can support and learn from people like Keelen who have wisdom and answers for ways too look after indigenous children (and any children who are falling through the gaps), to protect and nourish and celebrate who they are without imposing, condescending or judging.   Details - Allen&Unwin April 2014 RRP $29.99, also available as an ebook.

All these are new out but should be available where-ever you usually buy books or you can get your library to order a couple of copies and elbow your way to the front of the line!

love you more than a holiday full of indulgent book reading xxx