After a very successful first year in 2012, the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge has begun. I have signed up again, and I am doing my own challenge, based on the ‘Franklin’ of reading 10 books and reviewing at least 6 but reading 10 different Indigenous authors. I have started with Anita Heiss’ Manhattan Dreaming.
Manhattan Dreaming is the story of Lauren, first and only Indigenous Senior Curator in Australia who works at the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra (sadly it doesn’t exist outside this book, but it should) who has a relationship with a footballer that she is serious about but he doesn’t seem to be, a job she loves and the opportunity to go to Manhattan to take up a fellowship at the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian (which does exist and looks awesome). This is great chick lit (or chock lit as Anita has called it) and is a fantastic addition to the genre. Not only did I enjoy it as chick lit, but it also made me think. Initially I found the frequent references to Indigenous this or Koori that slightly irritating, but that was my reflexive white privilege reaction to dealing with a main character who wasn’t white, and loud and proud about it. Once I got over this feeling (and myself) I really got into the novel and enjoyed reading about Lauren’s adventures, the ups and downs of her love life, and was happily surprised at the ending. I have already requested two more of Anita’s ‘chock lit’ books through my local library (although they won’t count for this particular challenge) and I am looking forward to reading them as well just for fun.
It was great to read about wonderful women’s friendships, shopping, exploring a new place, settling in and finding your place so far from home. I also really liked the characterisation of Lauren’s family, particularly her Dad’s reaction to her move to New York:
‘Big bloody Apple my arse. We’ve got Big Apples here, at Batlow, and there’s one somewhere in Tassie and another one in Queensland, so I don’t know why she’d want to go to some bloody big-noting apple in America…Oh and they wouldn’t have a Big Prawn, would they? They’d have a bloody shrimp, which doesn’t even sound big.’
Reading this book made me wish that Lauren and her National Aboriginal Gallery were real so that I could go there and meet her. For me that is the mark of a good book.