August 22, 2009

Take Me Away- Australian Aborigines

Take Me Away Saturday

Thank you so much for nominating Take Me Away for BBAW's Best Feature Award!

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:
India Sierra Leone
Sioux Nation Spain
Japan Haiti
Kenya Norway
Taiwan Turkey

This week we are visiting the Aborigines of Australia. Click on the titles of the books to go to or Barnes & to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Aborigines live all over Australia. Here is a map I found that supposedly shows major Aboriginal communities. I do not know the accuracy of this map.

from wikipedia:
In the High Court of Australia, Australian Aborigines have been specifically identified as a group of people who share, in common, biological ancestry back to the original occupants of this continent. The word aboriginal was used in Australia to describe its Indigenous peoples as early as 1789. It soon became capitalised and employed as the common name to refer to all Indigenous Australians. At present the term refers only to those peoples who were traditionally hunter gatherers. It does not encompass those Indigenous peoples from the Torres Strait who traditionally practised agriculture. Click here to learn more.

Dreamkeepers: A Spirit-Journey into Aboriginal Australia by Harvey Arden
Arden, a staff writer for National Geographic and coauthor of Wisdom keep ers: Meetings with Native American Elders, here movingly and tellingly portrays modern-day Australian Aboriginals. Aided by a guide, he traveled in the Outback and sought out Aboriginals; interposing himself even less than Bruce Chatwin did in Songlines , another portrait of these people, Arden tried not to probe, but rather encouraged the Aboriginals to talk freely while keeping himself unobtrusive. He recorded poignant memories, inner thoughts, old stories and apocalyptic prophecies. Like Native Americans, the Australian Aboriginals regard themselves as a nation within a nation. Their sense of the sacredness of the land is unaltered; their frequently expressed hunger to retrieve their lost land is powerful. Regarded by many tourists and Australians as unsophisticated and as curiosities, the Aboriginals Arden met are extremely poor, living partly in the modern era and partly in the Dreamtime of their belief that their ancestors sung the world into existence. Photos. Publisher: HarperCollins Genre: Non-Fiction

The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People by Josephine Flood
Offering insight into the life and experiences of the world’s oldest culture, this account of Australia’s Aboriginal history spans the mythologies of the Dreamtime through the modern-day problems within the community. Culture and history enthusiasts will get answers to such questions as Where did the Aborigines come from and when? How did they survive in such a harsh environment? and What was the traditional role of Aboriginal women? This story emphasizes the resilience and adaptability of the Aboriginal people, especially throughout their relationship with the Europeans who eventually colonized the continent. Publisher: Allen & Unwin Academic Genre: Nonfiction

Rabbit Proof Fence: The True Story of One of the Greatest Escapes of All Time by Doris Pilkington and Nugi Garimara
The remarkable true story of three young girls who cross the harsh Australian desert on foot to return to their home. Following an Australian government edict in 1931, black aboriginal children and children of mixed marriages were gathered up by whites and taken to settlements to be assimilated. In Rabbit-Proof Fence, award-winning author Doris Pilkington traces the captivating story of her mother, Molly, one of three young girls uprooted from her community in Southwestern Australia and taken to the Moore River Native Settlement. At the settlement, Milly and her relatives Gracie and Daisy were forbidden to speak their native language, forced to abandon their aboriginal heritage, and taught to be culturally white. After regular stays in solitary confinement, the three girls—scared and homesick—planned and executed a daring escape from the grim camp, with its harsh life of padlocks, barred windows, and hard cold beds. The girls headed for the nearby rabbit-proof fence that stretched over 1,000 miles through the desert toward their home. Their journey lasted over a month, and the survived on everything from emus to feral cats, while narrowly avoiding the police, professional trackers, and hostile white settlers. Their story is a truly moving tale of defiance and resilience. Publisher: Miramax Books Genre: People & Cultures, Biography

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
In his new book, Chatwin (In Patagonia, etc.) explores the area around Alice Springs, in central Australia, where he ponders the source and meaning of nomadism, the origins of human violence and the emergence of mankind amid arid conditions. Searching for ``Songlines''the invisible pathways along which aboriginal Australians travel to perform their central cultural activitiesChatwin is accompanied by Arkady Volchok, a native Australian and tireless bushwalker who is helping the aboriginals protect their sacred sites through the provisions of the Land Rights Act. Chatwin's description of his adventures in the bush forms the most entertaining part of the book, but he also includes long quotations from other writersanthropologists, biologists, even poets. These secondary materials provide a resonant backdrop for the author's reflections on the distinctions between settled people and wanderers, between human aggression and pacifism. Publisher: Penguin Group Genre: Travel, Spirituality, Culture

Seeking the White Root: An Australian Story by Cinda Wombles Pettigrew and Robyn D. Warner
Seeking the White Root, a visionary fiction novel is an engaging spiritual journey that weaves a compelling path through both the Aboriginal society of yesterday and through the contemporary white Australian society of today. While enveloping the reader in a tale of mystery and awakening, Seeking brings to light issues that parallel the Aborigine experience including the rights of children, environmental concerns, cultural exploitation, tolerance and acceptance of others and their traditions. Publisher: Bald Eagle Press Genre: Fiction

Sun Mother Wakes the World: An Australian Creation Story by Diane Wolkstein and Bronwyn Bancroft
Brilliant paintings enfold Wolkstein's retelling of an Australian Aboriginal creation myth. Awakened by a voice, Sun Mother leaves her home in the sky and travels the sleeping earth as grass, plants, and trees sprout in her footsteps. She wakes the dozing animals in their dark caves:first the crawling creatures-grubs, beetles, and caterpillars; next, the lizards, frogs, snakes, and fish; and finally, in the coldest cave, she wakes the birds and animals. She creates a beautiful world, then returns to the sky. Night frightens her creatures, until they discover that it isn't permanent. In time, Sun Mother lets the animals choose their own shapes and attributes: "Platypus could not decide what she wanted. So she chose everything. A beak, fur, webbed feet, and a tail!" Finally, Sun Mother gives birth to a daughter, Moon, and son, Morning Star. They, in turn, give birth to twins, the first woman and man. Sun Mother instructs them to care for the plants and animals, as all share a common home on earth. Though the tale is gracefully told, it is Bancroft's paintings that make the greatest impression. Bold colors and patterns lined with thick, powerful lines draw the eye along each page and bring the story to life. Wolkstein's authoritative notes carefully document her sources, and add insight into the origins of these tales. Publisher: HarperCollins Genre: Children's Books, Ages 4-8; People & Cultures

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you want to share book recommendations about the Australian Aboriginal culture? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments!

Be sure to check back next week for another trip in books! Here is what is coming up for the next three Take Me Away Saturday posts:
August 29: The African country of Egypt.
September 5: The culture of the Inuit People.
September 12: Trio: the countries of Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

Cultures Visited:
Sioux Nation


  1. Wonderful entry today. There are some great movies about this too, e.g., Rabbit-Proof Fence.

  2. I had no idea this sort of literature was out there. I'm definitely going to have to read something from this list. Not sure which yet...decisions, decisions...


  3. Incidentally, I've just finished reading a novel set in Australia (The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser) but not about the aborigines. This is all very interesting. I don't think I've read a book on the aborigines yet, thanks! And congratulations on the nomination.. you deserve it, this is a great feature that I enjoy a lot. :D

  4. There was a book I read in high school about an American woman who (supposedly) traveled with the Australian Aborigines on a walkabout for a year. I don't remember the name of it, but it was pretty fascinating.

  5. I find this topic absolutely fascinating!! Rabbit-Proof fence looks like one I would like to read and Dreamkeepers!!

    Congratulations on the nomination for Best Feature. I know it certainly is one of my absolute favorites!!

  6. Your Take Me Away feature is so deserving of the BBAW nomination and winning. I know I will be voting for you. I love this feature. You do a wonderfully comprehensive job with the maps, the books and all the info.

    Thanks for all the suggestions today. Rabbit Proof Fence looks fascinating.

  7. I learned a lot about Aboriginal religion in college, as Emile Durkheim's work on them is still used widely, but I have never read any novels about them. I would like to! Thanks for this!

  8. Try Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, perhaps the finest novel ever written by an Indigenous Australian. Other Aboriginal novelists well worth reading include Tara June Winch, (Swallowing the Air), Gayle Kennedy, (Antman, Fleabag and Me), Vivienne Cleven (Bitin' Back and Her Sister's Eye). Or simply check out the marvelous Macquarie Pen Anthology of Aboriginal Literature.

  9. I agree with the recommendation of Carpentaria

  10. Great post. As an Australian of Aboriginal heritage who grew up in the outer reaches of north west New South Wales myself, I would recomend Carpentaria as one of the best reads you will find by an indigenous author.

  11. Another great post!
    I did not read Rabbit Proof fence but did se the movie on IFC. Heartbreaking but really well-done.

  12. Great post!
    Congrats on the nomination, Rebecca!! :)

  13. If you can find them pick ups some of the dreamtime stories which make up Aboriginal creation stories. My favorite was always Tiddilick.

    I worked with a lady who is related to the author of Rabbit Proof fence.

    As for the map I cant speak for the Southern States but in terms of Northern & Central Australia its pretty accurate in terms of major communities. I would probably put another orange blob halfway between Central and Western Deserts and Top End & Arnhem Land.

  14. I just read a Miles Franklin winner-The White Earth-that deals with Aborigine stuff from the white Australian perspective. It was very interesting!

  15. Love the list adn love that most of the books are non-fiction. thanks for highlighting them.

  16. Thank you for another excellent list!

  17. This is a wonderful feature! I saw the movie Rabbit Proof Fence - it was incredible. I've forgotten that I wanted to seek out the book/ inspiration for that film. THanks for the reminder!

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