We’ve teamed up with mother daughter duo, Debbie and Catie of @bothsides.bookclub to bring you your monthly dose of literature.
Education has never been more important and what better way to learn than with a good read. Each month the ladies will be reviewing their favourite must-reads for you all, whether it be a biography, drama or one of the classics. So put the kettle on, cosy up and get reading.
First up, The Yield by Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch
The Yield is an extraordinary and profound story of a people and a culture dispossessed. Written by Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch it tells the story of August Gondiwindi, who returns home to Prosperous House on the Murrumby River after her grandfather's death, to find that the land is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends, August endeavours to save the land, a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and the stories of her people. The Yield has wiped the board this year winning The NSW Premier's Literary Award, The Stella Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. This stunning novel blends three distinct narrative voices and we were beyond moved by the story of this fictional family whose experiences reflect Australia's history and that of its Indigenous people.
What Debbie is saying:
The Yield is a book about loss. Grief for a grandfather, for the loss of a sister, the loss of a home, the loss of language and the loss of cultural identity. It is also a story about family and belonging and a wonderful celebration of how words and language are integral to survival.
The narrative is told through three different strands and perspectives: in the present day through the eyes of August Gondiwindi who has returned home after her grandfather’s death, through her grandfather Albert “Poppy”’s eyes and the dictionary he creates and through the historical letters of Reverend Greenleaf, who tells the story of the Colonisation of the area in the early 20th Century. Tara June Winch’s incredibly skilful interweaving of the storylines gives us a sensitive and thought-provoking depiction of the destiny of one indigenous family over time. I am always fascinated by dictionaries and the definition of words and loved the way in which the author uses Poppy’s Wiradjuri dictionary to link the past and the present. I was swept away by the currents of meaning in the story, loved its quintessential Australian feel and learned an enormous amount about the country we call home.
What Catie is saying:
I am so pleased to launch our Both Sides Book Club partnership with Auguste with such a powerful and important fiction. This is a book that I feel must be read particularly to educate or re-educate oneself on Australian history.
The novel is told from three different perspectives. August Gondiwindi’s story, a young woman returning to her home town from the UK after the death of her grandfather. Poppy Gondiwindi's (Grandfather) is the second perspective where he is compiling the largely-forgotten Wiradjuri language onto paper in the form of a dictionary. The third perspective is a letter from 1915, written by the German reverend who first established an Aboriginal mission in Massacre Plains.
Winch is a Wiradjuri author herself with a truly phenomenal voice and fills the pages with incredible historical importance. Using Dreamtime stories and personal experiences, it is through Poppy Gondiwindi's dictionary that we learn his own personal story, as well as the traditions, customs and beliefs of his ancestors.This isn’t all that Winch tackles: though she cleverly addresses history, settlement, the stolen generation, mining, jobs, the destruction of the environment and the death of small country towns. Although these aren’t light topics, Winch makes this a story about people. She urges us to educate ourselves about retaining culture and language and about the importance of identity.
From once having over 250 distinct languages, Australia has, in 200 years, suffered the largest and most rapid loss of languages known to history. Australia is also the only Commonwealth country to not have a treaty with its indigenous population. I am originally an immigrant to Australia and whilst I call myself Australian now and Australia home, I am living on the land of the First Nation’s people. Reading this book has been humbling in many ways and its history is an area that I will continue to read into and educate myself in.