I have completed the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge!
This post is to record how I went compared to my challenge criteria, and to give a very short overview of each book.
First, the books. They were:
(1) MumShirl: an autobiography (Genre: Autobiography)
An account of some of the work that has been done – and a reminder of the work that still needs to be done – to redress the wrongs done to Aboriginal Australians. (Full review here.)
(2) Maxine Beneba Clark, Foreign Soil (Genre: Short Stories)
A wonderful set of short stories which are windows into different worlds. (Full review here.)
(3) Terri Janke, Butterfly Song (Genre: Literary fiction)
I found this an interesting read, reminding me that not everyone approaches things the same way I do (for example, my experience of university was very different from that of the main character). The basic idea of the story is also very intriguing, and the central characters are likeable and sympathetic. However, I found the pace of the book very slow, and some of the descriptions and dialogue felt a bit twee or superficial.
(4) Melissa Lucashenko, Too Flash (Genre: YA)
A solid YA book exploring the many ways in which a young Black girl feels bewteen worlds. (Full review here.)
(5) Maralinga, the Anangu story (Genre: Children/History)
Definitely worth a read in order to learn about and remember a (terrible) part of Australian history which is too often overlooked. (Full review here.)
(6) May O’Brien and Sue Wyatt, The Legend of the Seven Sisters: a traditional Aboriginal story from Western Australia (Genre: Children/traditional story)
When I was a kid, I had a few picture books with traditional Aboriginal stories. I loved them. I think that exposure to traditional Aboriginal stories is important for both Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, so that they know from a young age that their stories are valied, but also for non-Indigenous, so that they also know to value these stories. However, if you are looking for a children’s book with a catchy rhythm, this is not that book.
(7) Kate Forsyth, Bitter Greens (Genre: Speculative Fiction/Fairy Tale)
A truly lovely excursion into the life of a single woman in the Court of the Sun King – and Rapunzel. (Full review here.)
(8) Joan London, Gilgamesh (Genre: Historical Fiction)
This book is an interesting portrayal of how one young woman tries to escape the narrow life she has grown up with in rural Western Australia – first in her fling with an Armenian visitor, then in her journey to Armenia in search of him. It was solid but didn’t really grab me.
(9) Annie Hauxwell, In Her Blood (Genre: Crime)
A bit noir and sterotypical for my liking – but probably more enjoyable if you like noir! (Full review here.)
(10) Eileen Chong, Peony (Genre: Poetry)
A book of poems exploring a range of issues, including family, friendship and love. I didn’t love every poem, but those I did like were sufficient for me to rate the book pretty well. (Full review here.)
Here are my criteria again:
I went for Franklin – reading 10 books and writing at least 6 reviews.
To this, I added the following criteria:
(1) No repeat authors.
(2) No books I have already read (although I am allowed to read books by authors whose other books I have read before).
(3) No repeat genres (sub-genres count as separate genres for this purpose).
(4) At least three substantial reviews.
(5) At least four Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander authors (up from two last time).
(6) At least two immigrant (or first-generation-Australian) authors (up from one last time).
(7) At least two books set in a rural setting (up from one last time).
(8) I aim to finish the challenge by the end of February.
I posted a precis of how I met most of those criteria when I posted my list of books. Here is the updated precis.
First: as you can see, there are 10 books, from different genres, and I posted seven substantive reviews (linked above, also see my series page for a full list of my reviews). In addition, I wrote a brief review on Goodreads for each of the other three books (those reviews are reproduced here).
As for the additional criteria:
(1) There were no repeat authors.
(2) I had not read any of the books before and, in fact, all of the authors on this list were new to me.
(3) No repeat genres.
(4) Seven substantial reviews.
(5) Mum Shirl was Black, of course. Terri Janke has family connections to the Meriam and Wuthathi peoples (Torres Strait and Cape York respectively). The contributors to Maralinga are from the Yalata and Oak Valley Communities. May O’Brien is a Wongatha woman from Western Australia and a member of the Stolen Generations, and it appears Sue Wyatt is also a Wongatha woman. Melissa Lucashenko is of mixed European and Goorie (Aboriginal) heritage.
That’s five books by Indigenous authors.
(6) Eileen Chong, Annie Hauxwell and Maxine Beneba Clark are first generation Australians or have immigrated here. None of the others seem to be. The aim of this criterion is for cultural diversity. As noted in the post listing the books I intended to read, I found it difficult to find authors with non-Anglo names.
(7) Butterfly Song is partly in a rural setting, as is Gilgamesh. Maralinga: The Anangu Story is all about a rural place. The Story of the Seven Sisters is also set in a rural setting.
I know that the fact that I finished the challenge before the end of January does demonstrate that, in some ways, this is not much of a challenge for me. I don’t add more books because my work is so unpredictable during the year and I don’t want to make commitments I can’t keep. I prefer to keep it short and sharp and bring int he extra criteria.
As in 2012, the biggest aspect of the challenge for me was, and was always going to be, writing reviews. I am proud of the fact that I wrote the seven substantial reviews which have been posted here at Wallaby (and cross-posted at Hoyden About Town), and also, as noted above, wrote a brief review for every book, which you can find at my Goodreads page (also reproduced above).
Once again, in keeping with the purpose of the challenge, I will continue to read books by Australian women writers (well, I would anyway), to continue to seek out books that I would not normally read, and, perhaps, to write reviews.
Let the challenge continue!
You can see my full list of books here. You can find a full list of my reviews, and other posts relevant to the challenge, here.