We are proud to partner with Western Australia’s peak writing body, Writing WA, to amplify some of the wide-ranging talent found in our State across the writing and publishing spectrum, with a focus on telling untold and ‘invisible’ stories from diverse communities.  We encourage you to seek out and share the texts we recommend, and support their authors as part of a thriving and inclusive literary community.

We asked writingWA CEO Sharon Flindell about some of her favourite Western Australian books that reflect the great diversity of lived experiences in our State, and here are some of her picks:

Simply Ing, Helen Nellie, as told to Margaret O’Brien (Magabala Books)
NAIDOC Week 2018 celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women and the significant roles they have played – and continue to play – in their communities. Helen Ing Nellie is one of those remarkable women, a strong, proud Noongar, and the story she tells in Simply Ing is in part a celebration and recognition of such women’s lives. It is also in part an often tragic recounting of the long-term effects of cultural dispossession, including the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities, and of Ing’s struggle to regain her Noongar identity. It is, however, told with humour and compassion, and despite her often desperate circumstances, Ing sums up her long life as a good one, with many joys.

Always Another Country: a memoir of exile and home, Sisonke Msimang (Text Publishing)
This eloquent, moving and heartfelt memoir will have readers riveted from start to end. Born in exile to ANC freedom fighters, Sisonke lived in various parts of Africa, Canada and the US before settling “home” after the fall of apartheid. Each chapter is a story re-telling that imparts an important life lesson. Sisonke’s passion, idealism and courage beam true from every page, characterising what is often very fragile hope for herself and her family in South Africa. Nevertheless she is in possession of an indomitable spirit that clearly shines through. Readers will love this book for its exquisite and gutsy storytelling. Highly recommended reading.

The Wounded Sinner, Gus Henderson (Magabala Books)
An old man is dying in a grand house in suburban Perth. His son Matthew drives from the small dusty town of Leonora every three weeks to check in on him and give his regular carer a break. Matthew’s de facto wife, Jeanie, is an Aboriginal woman who is trying to find out what happened to her family before she was fostered out to a white pastor who raised her as his daughter. She feels disconnected yet drawn to the small town which holds the secret of her identity; and also closes in on her in ways she cannot understand. Her daughter Jaylene is canny and wise beyond her years while the town’s Mr Fixit, Ben Poulson has his eye on both mother and daughter. This is a story of men who do not behave with honour, and of the women trying to make a go of their lives, despite inattention, betrayal and neglect. In his debut novel, Gus Henderson uses landscape and loss to determine the negotiations his characters make in the chaos of their lives. Tackling misogyny, racism and identity through the “thorny clutter of a wasted life” this novel is an important addition to West Australian literature.

Finding My Place: From Cairo to Canberra – the irresistible story of an irrepressible woman, Anne Aly (ABC Books)
The subtitle of Anne Aly’s autobiography scopes out the shape of her narrative and offers insight into Aly’s character. But it’s the events of her turbulent life – from her birth in Egypt, her growing up in Australia, her academic life, her marriages and the birth of her two sons, her gaining a doctorate, and an international reputation through her research work on global terrorism and her recent election to the seat of Curtin as a Labor member in the Federal Parliament – that make this book so memorable. Aly’s narrative voice is as strong and indomitable as she is. While she encounters many setbacks, her energy, intelligence and absolute determination to find her place in all the areas of her life make for fascinating reading.

Ways of Being Here, Rafeif Ismail, Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, Tinashe Jakwa and Yuot Alaak (Margaret River Press and Centre for Stories)
Don’t let its size fool you – this little volume of four short stories by four Western Australian-based writers of African descent packs a big literary punch. This is a powerful collection of stories that speak of loss, of family and belonging, of identity, of memory, of horrendous acts of brutality and small acts of kindness. Each one is bold, brave, disturbing, and above all beautifully written, and each will reward re-reading. Ways of Being Here is another impressive title in MRP’s expanding list, giving voice to alternative experiences and bringing four new writers to well-deserved attention.

Two Sisters: A True Story, Ngarta Jinny Bent, Jukuna Mona Chuguna, Pat Lowe and Eirlys Richards (Magabala Books)
Ngarta Jinny Bent and Jukuna Mona Chuguna grew up with family members in the Great Sandy Desert region of North-west Western Australia. Their fascinating stories, Ngarta’s ‘A Desert Tragedy’, told to Pat Lowe, and Jukuna’s ‘my life in the desert’, written by her in their original language, Walmajarri, and translated by Eirlys Richards, record a way of life now past. The book also includes beautiful reproductions of the women’s paintings of their desert homelands, photos, and Lowe’s description of the Walmajarri diaspora, as well as notes by Lowe and Richards about how they worked with the sisters. This is a book to treasure.

Twenty Two Years to Life, Mohammed Massoud Morsi (Mohammed Hussein Miheasen)
Twenty Two Years to Life is the story of a young man and woman who fall in love, get married, and plan a family together. It is perhaps the most ‘normal’ story in the world – a love story. Except that in the life of this deeply devoted couple ‘normal’ is also a harsh world of permits, razor wire, scarcity and fear. The dichotomy between love and oppression echoes through this powerful narrative, taking the reader on a shifting journey between the delicate and the devastating. In Twenty Two Years to Life Morsi, writing with tremendous empathy, has distilled a political conflict into a very human, visceral story. In doing so he asks us all to consider what a person bereft of hope might eventually become capable of.

Alfred’s War, Rachel Bin Salleh, Illust. Samantha Fry (Magabala Books)
As a young Indigenous man with a thirst for adventure, Alfred George enlisted to fight in the Great War. Wounded in battle, Alfred was shipped home from France and went on to live as a homeless, itinerant worker. Despite having fought for the freedom of others, he was not afforded those same freedoms on his return – not classed as a citizen in his own country and unable to march with his comrades on ANZAC Day. This poignant debut picture book highlights the lack of recognition afforded our Indigenous servicemen on their return. Text and muted illustration convey the trauma of war gently for young readers while opening up the well overdue conversation about why it has taken so long for the bravery and sacrifice of our Indigenous servicemen to be honoured.

False Claims of Colonial Thieves, Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella (Magabala Books)
This is a powerful and heart-wrenching book that deserves a wide readership. In this dialogue of beautiful, strong poems, two accomplished poets share their ecological concerns about the devastation of land and culture in Western Australia due to colonisation, capitalism and the mining industry. A duet of voices, speaking with both tenderness and outrage, about the crimes against the Yamaji people, against the salmon gums and the salt-parched earth. Both Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella were raised in the Wheatbelt, and their personal histories about country create a commanding discourse that demands to be heard.

If I Tell You, Alicia Tuckerman (Pantera Press)
Alex Summers lives in a country town and she has a secret – she’s gay. She has made a deal with herself that she won’t tell anyone unless she’s asked, but the question never comes. When a confident, out-and-proud new girl comes to town, Alex is forced to confront her desires and her fears, and finds that people don’t always react the way she expects. This is a touching and strong first novel about being yourself and being different, and the importance of being true to yourself and those around you. This is a welcome addition to diverse Australian literature for young people.

Swimming on the Lawn, Yasmin Hamid (Fremantle Press)
Swimming on the Lawn is a pre-teen novel set in the 1960s in Khartoum, Sudan. The narrator, Farida, is widely read in British literature of the period. (Her mother is English). This is an episodic work in which there is no attempt to insert a reflective adult voice, and so there is an immediacy in the storytelling where the everyday world is registered without judgement or context. The adult reader is likely to pick up on the occasional references to soldiers or gunfire and to be aware that this is a privileged life being unveiled. Race and class issues are yet to trouble Farida’s life. At the end the reader has no more knowledge than the narrator as to why her father has been arrested, but the childhood bubble has burst and one wonders: What next?

Taboo, Kim Scott (Picador)
Taboo starts with an out-of-control semi-trailer freewheeling down a street, a hillside, spilling wheat, two humans and a skeleton as it crests to a stop in ‘massacre place.’ It is a powerful beginning tempered with a warning from its author – ‘this is no fairy tale, it is drawn from real life’. In his Afterword, Scott concedes that his fiction touches on ‘real events, people and landscape’. Storytelling, particularly in the hands of someone as accomplished as Kim Scott, will always be a political act, and this story is no exception. As a work of fiction, it is incomparable; as a work of fiction based loosely on real life, it is devastating. The novel ends as it begins, reminding the reader of the circularity of stories, how beginnings and endings are shaped by intent and weighed by landscape. It is a story of dispossession, abuse, colonialism, addiction and racism.

 

You can also browse interviews from some of our favourite authors below:

 

Kim Scott, Taboo

“It’s about re-establishing the connection between characters, between people and their context, historically and as part of the landscape.

It’s about acknowledgement… that we agree, to a considerable extent, on our interpretation of history… that’s pretty tricky, just to get to that agreement in the first place… it opens the door to further speaking and listening, and further storying, it opens the door, we want to talk about, we want to listen to other voices to do with our history, other than the bronze statues in the stuffy costume.

For us to be together in this place and perhaps share that deep sense of history, that deep sense of being in this place and those deep stories that are embedded in the landscape.  Reconciliation is a phrase that needs inverted commas… it is about intent.. and a continual process of negotiation and refinement and enrichment.”

“There’s other ways of storying, the story isn’t over yet.”

 

 

Shokoofeh Azar, The Enlightenment of the Greegage Tree

“We should not forget this period.  It’s painful, and still we try and remind people that it’s part of our history; still I see a lot of the young generation, they don’t know, and it really makes me upset, and I thought, I have a responsibility to remind people – hey- we had this history, only 30 to 40 years ago, and we should remember it.”

 

 

Mohammed Massoud Morsi, Twenty Two Years to Life

“The unlucky and hopeless have come together.”

 

 

Rashida Murphy, The Historian’s Daughter

 

 

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Who do you think I am?

 

 

You can visit writingWA at https://www.writingwa.org.