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Posts Tagged ‘institutional racism’

Black-on-white silhouette of an apparently female figure in a top hat, with the words in white: 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge (and the url australianwomenwriters.com at the bottom)
Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb from Goodreads

This is an original take on a classic story – how a child of immigrants moves between two cultures. In place of piety and predictability, however, Unpolished Gem offers a vivid and ironic sense of both worlds. It combines the story of Pung’s life growing up in suburban Footscray with the inherited stories of the women in her family – stories of madness, survival and heartbreak. Original and brave, this is a girl’s own story that introduces an unforgettable voice and captures the experience of Asian immigrants to Australia.

My review

First, a bit of background to my reading of this book. I grew up in a part of Sydney where there were many people of Asian descent. Those who were my age had often either been born in Australia to parents who were recent immigrants, or had come to Australia as children. Many of my friends were of Asian descent, from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I tended to see the similarities between my friends and me – they were, after all, my friends – and I often did not understand why they reacted to certain things so differently, especially in relation to their interactions and relationships with their families.

In the years since high school, I have grown to understand much more. Unpolished Gem allowed me to take another leap in my understanding of some of my friends. At the very least, this means that if Ms Pung is writing for the wider Australian audience, to give them an insight into the life of a certain section of the Australian community, she has nailed it. (I am quite curious to know if she has nailed the audience within the section of the Australian community she is writing about.)

Ms Pung’s writing is impeccable. (more…)

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Black-on-white silhouette of an apparently female figure in a top hat, with the words in white: 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge (and the url australianwomenwriters.com at the bottom)
We of the Never Never by Jeannie Gunn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Blurb from Goodreads

An Australian classic. Depicts the enduring hardships of life in the Australian outback and the battles against sexist and racial prejudices.

My review

One of the things I tried to do for this challenge was to read a number of books I have been meaning to read for some time. We of the Never Never was one such book. Because it is an Australian classic from the early 20th century, I expected to find parts of it confronting, and in that, I was not disappointed.

A quick precis: the book is a memoir of the author’s first year on the Elsey, a station in the Northern Territory, several days’ journey (by the modes of transport then available) from Katherine. She is there because she has just married the Elsey’s manager, referred to in the book as “the Maluka” (this is later explained to be a name given to him by the Aboriginal people they have contact with and is, at least, so the author tells us, untranslateable). She is the only non-Aboriginal woman on the Elsey. She tells the story of her journey from Darwin to the Elsey early in the Wet season, and goes on to narrate other episodes, including staffing difficulties, the completion of the homestead and trips out on the station.

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This makes me so angry!

I agree with a lot of what tigtog says in the linked post, and also Michael Brull’s post at Overland.

I did read through all of the reasons for sentence [NB: link is a pdf], and I have some further comments arising out of that.

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… but something about this article strikes me as racist.

It may be the general patronising tone.

It may be the “mystical native” type of sub-heading:

Aborigines have handed down songs and legends about their lands for generations. Today they form an unbroken link to a mythical past – and a key to the future

It may be the misunderstanding of what “Stolen Generations” means:

Australia, the recent movie with Nicole Kidman, dramatises what happened to the “stolen generation”, children born of Aboriginal mothers but fathered by white men, removed from their mothers and sent to missions. But full-blooded Aboriginal children were taken away from their families, too, and this is a story less well-known.

It may be the “only white man can save the Aboriginal past (and it only matters because white man wants to save it)” climax to the piece:

And there is a story, but it’s a story I can’t hear. Part of me wishes they would tell it, because I’m afraid otherwise it may be lost, and what if it is an ancient story? With roads, cars, alcohol, genocide, the destruction of a land and a group of peoples, I’m afraid it will all go away.

But whatever it is, there’s something about that article that strikes me as softly, subtly, dangerously racist.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Me too, Ariane, me too.

(Although I do think the question is racist, or shows the questioner’s susceptibility to racist culture, or something.)

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I’ve been seeing this banana ad on TV quite a bit recently (there are a few versions of it, but this is the one I want to talk about).

Transcript:
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