In our own voices: 5 Australian books about living with disability



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Jessica White, The University of Queensland

Fiction and non-fiction works about disability and Deafness are often hampered by stereotypical representations. A disability is frequently presented as something to “overcome”, or used to characterise someone (ever notice all those evil characters portrayed as disfigured?).

These representations obscure the joys, frustrations and creativity of living with disability and Deafness.

Dutch author Corinne Duyvis started the #OwnVoices movement on Twitter because she was frustrated that calls for diversity within the publishing industry did not extend to diverse authors. Originating in discussions of young adult fiction, #OwnVoices aims to highlight books written by authors who share a marginalised identity with the protagonist.

Life writing also provides firsthand accounts of disability and Deafness, showing what it is like to navigate a world designed for able-bodied people. In addition, these books help people with disability and Deafness learn more about their condition, and create community.

Australia has an established literary tradition of writing about disability. Here are five books by Australian disabled writers that reveal insights into their lives and conditions.




Read more:
Creating and being seen: new projects focus on the rights of artists with disabilities


1. Alan Marshall’s Hammers Over the Anvil (1975)

Hammers Over the Anvil book cover

Many readers will be familiar with Marshall’s I Can Jump Puddles (1955), the first book in his series about growing up and living with polio in rural Australia.

Where that book is a cheerful and somewhat sanitised account of living with a disability, Hammers Over the Anvil (1975), the fourth and final book in Marshall’s series, is more realistic.

Marshall’s publisher refused to publish the book, thinking it would tarnish his image. Despite — or perhaps because of — his brutal treatment, Marshall shows a keen sympathy for disenfranchised people and also for animals.

2. Donna Williams’ Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl (1991)

Nobody Nowhere book cover

Donna Williams was not diagnosed with autism until she was an adult; prior to that she was thought to be deaf and psychotic.

Her story begins at age three and is thick with sensory details, which both delight and overwhelm Williams. She recounts interactions with hostile people — including her own mother, who wanted to admit Williams to an institution.

This book was the first full-length, published account by a person with autism in Australia. It became an international bestseller, spending 15 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and was translated into 20 languages.

3. Gayle Kennedy’s Me, Antman & Fleabag (2007)

Me, Antman & Fleabag book cover

In this book, Gayle Kennedy, of the Wongaibon people of south west New South Wales, uses a series of engaging vignettes to describe her life as a First Nations woman who had polio.

Kennedy was sent away for treatment. When she returned, her parents seemed like strangers; it took a while to readjust. Though the subject matter sounds heavy, this humorous and accessible work is rich with stories about the importance of family (including dogs!) and the impact of racism.

It is also an important book because it chronicles some of the experiences of First Nations people with disability. It won the David Unaipon award in 2006.

4. Andy Jackson’s Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold (2017)

Music Our Bodies Can’t Hold book cover

Poet Andy Jackson, who has a condition called Marfan Syndrome that affects the body’s connective tissue, began performing poetry to give himself more control over representations of his body.

His collection consists of biographical poems of people with Marfan Syndrome, some of whom he interviewed, and historical figures who are thought to have had the condition, including Abraham Lincoln, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, Mary Queen of Scots, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and blues guitarist Robert Johnson.

Poetry, with its focus on voice, is strongly connected to the way that bodies express themselves, often in unique ways. As Jackson writes at the end of his poem Jess:

now look at this photo and tell me

you still want sameness.

5. Carly Findlay (ed), Growing Up Disabled in Australia (2021)

Growing up Disabled book cover

The final book on my list is one I haven’t read yet — but I cannot wait until I can. Edited by Carly Findley, who has ichthyosis, this collection to be released early next year, will highlight the range of childhoods experienced by people with disability in Australia.

We will be able to read about how young people manage ableism and the (sometimes) soreness of not fitting in, and interviews with prominent Australians such as Senator Jordon Steele-John and Paralympian Isis Holt.

I lost most of my hearing when I was four, and when I was growing up I didn’t read a single book that featured a character who was Deaf. Books like Growing Up Disabled will help young Deaf and disabled people recognise themselves in Australian literature.




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The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes review: Back to Back Theatre’s exciting reframing of disability


In my own hybrid memoir, Hearing Maud, I weave together my experiences of Deafness with those of Maud Praed, the Deaf daughter of 19th century expatriate Australian novelist Rosa Praed.

Maud and I were born 100 years apart, and although our lives went in radically different directions many of our circumstances are the same — especially the expectation that we conform to a hearing world. My disability is often invisible, and I wanted to explain the relentless and exhausting attention that is needed for me to function. Deafness is far more complex than simply not hearing.

There are thousands more examples of the ways authors can write about living with disability. The International Day of People with Disability is a great time to start reading.




Read more:
On screen and on stage, disability continues to be depicted in outdated, cliched ways


The Conversation


Jessica White, UQ Amplify Associate Lecturer, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

10 ‘lost’ Australian literary treasures you should read – and can soon borrow from any library



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Rebecca Giblin, University of Melbourne and Airlie Lawson, University of Melbourne

Many culturally important books by Australian authors are out of print, hard to find as secondhand copies, and confined to the physical shelves of a limited number of libraries. Effectively, they have become inaccessible and invisible — even including some Miles Franklin award winners by authors such as Thea Astley and Rodney Hall.

To ensure these works can be read, a team of authors, librarians and researchers are working together on Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project.

By digitising out of print books and making them available for e-lending, the project will create a royalty stream for the authors involved, as well as income for the arts workers we are employing as proofreaders.

Commercial publishing lists, such as Text Classics and Allen & Unwin’s House of Books, do a great job of breathing new life into some of Australia’s lost books. But they often focus on literary fiction, to the exclusion of genre fiction, children’s books and non-fiction, which also need to be preserved.

Here are 10 of our favourites we’re excited to digitise so you can borrow from your local library straight to your e-device. We expect these and other books in the project to be available in the first half of 2021 – and you too can nominate a book for inclusion in the collection here.

Working Bullocks (1926) by Katharine Susannah Prichard

Book cover

Before Coonardoo (1929), Prichard’s best known work, there was Working Bullocks.

The novel describes the trials of Red Burke, a bullock driver in Western Australia, trying to make a living in a post-war Australia.

Just after the novel’s original publication, it was described by John Sleeman of The Bookman in the UK as “the high-water mark of Australian literary achievement in the novel so far”.

Metal Fatigue (1996) by Sean Williams

Sean Williams has written over 50 books, including co-authored titles with authors such as Shane Dix and Garth Nix which have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Metal Fatigue was Williams’ debut. Set in a small American city 40 years after the end of a nuclear war, the residents must decide if they want to join the newly forming Re-United States of America.

Depicting a dystopic future of violence, shortages and a divided USA, it still feels remarkably current today.

I’m Not Racist, But… (2007) by Anita Heiss

Book cover

This poetry collection from activist, writer and member of the Wiradjuri Nation, Professor Anita Heiss, skewers Australia’s racist underbelly.

I’m Not Racist, But… explores identity, pride and political correctness; proposes alternative words to the national anthem; and reveals how it is to grow up as an Indigenous woman in Australia.

This is a landmark work along Australia’s slow road to racial reckoning.

Space Demons (1986) by Gillian Rubinstein

The multi-award winning Space Demons was Gillian Rubinstein’s first book and began the much-loved trilogy of the same name.

It follows four ordinary kids drawn into a dangerous new computer game – instead of simply watching the game on the screen, they become part of it. And there is no way to know if they will escape.

With its gripping plot and local setting, Space Demons introduced many children to Australian science fiction – and led to many Australians first discovering their love of reading.




Read more:
Curious Kids: Why do adults think video games are bad?


Noonkanbah: Whose Land, Whose Law (1989) by Steve Hawke, with photographs by Michael Gallagher

Book cover

In 1979-80, the Yungngora people protested to stop the American company Amax drilling for oil on a sacred site on Noonkanbah Station, Western Australia.

This book is the detailed first-hand account of what became a high profile, ground-breaking land rights campaign, leading to the formation of the Kimberley Land Council. The Yungngora people wouldn’t have their native title rights recognised until 2007.

Alongside the reporting by Hawke, son of former PM Bob Hawke?, the book includes photographs taken by anthropologist Michael Gallagher.

This is an essential work of Australian history.

The Unlucky Australians (1968) by Frank Hardy

Frank Hardy was known for his political activism around labour rights, and as the author of 16 books. Almost his entire backlist is out of print, with the notable exception of Power Without Glory (1950).

In The Unlucky Australians, Hardy tells the story of the Gurindji people and the opening years of the strike they began in 1966.

Their protest against poor working and living conditions, seeking the return of their traditional lands, lasted nine years.

The Whitlam government returned some of those lands in 1975 with the historic transfer of “a handful of dirt” and the strike led to the passage of the historic Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in 1976.

A vital piece towards understanding the shameful labour conditions inflicted upon Indigenous Australians, this book should never have gone out of print.




Read more:
An historic handful of dirt: Whitlam and the legacy of the Wave Hill Walk-Off


The Mandala trilogy (1993-2004) by Carmel Bird

Inspired by three real life charismatic and dangerous individuals, these dark stories of abused trust and misplaced faith are transformed, taking on a gothic quality, with complex narratives, unlikely narrators and fairy-tale elements.

The White Garden is an ambitious novel following the misdeeds of the psychiatrist Dr Goddard (or Dr God, for short) in a hospital in the 1960s. Red Shoes takes us into the world of a religious cult. Cape Grimm looks at a religious order after its members are killed by their charismatic leader.

The Mindless Ferocity of Sharks (2003) by Brett D’Arcy

The Mindless Ferocity of Sharks is coming-of-age story about “Floaty Boy”, an 11-year-old with a love of body-surfing, his family, and what happens when his older brother disappears.

Described by the Australian Book Review as “Tim Winton on speed”, D’Arcy shines his own spotlight on Western Australia, exploring the duality of a life spent between the waves and the shore – and what happens when a family becomes torn apart by loss.


Untapped will launch with a free online celebration on November 24 at 6pm. Register for the launch here, nominate a book for inclusion at untapped.org.au – and let us know what you think we should digitise in the comments.The Conversation

Rebecca Giblin, ARC Future Fellow; Associate Professor; Director, Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia, University of Melbourne and Airlie Lawson, Postdoctoral Fellow, ‘Untapped: the Australian Literary Heritage Project’, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Books on Donald Trump


The link below is to an article that considers the multitude of books on the Donald Trump era and looks for the best ones.

For more visit:
https://gen.medium.com/the-best-books-about-the-trump-era-according-to-the-critic-who-read-150-cc43cea9720a

The Mark Dawson Controversy


The links below are to articles reporting on how author Mark Dawson manipulated the bestseller list and the consequences of his action.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/jul/20/an-author-bought-his-own-book-to-get-higher-on-bestseller-lists-is-that-fair
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jul/22/author-loses-spot-in-top-10-bought-400-copies-of-his-own-book-mark-dawson-the-cleaner

Five must-read novels on the environment and climate crisis



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Ti-han Chang, University of Central Lancashire

Since the start of lockdown, more of us have taken to our bicycles, grown our own vegetables and baked our own bread. So it’s not surprising it has been suggested we should use this experience to rethink our approach to the climate crisis.

Reading some environmental literature – sometimes called “eco-literature” – can also give us the opportunity to think about the world around us in different ways.

Eco-literature, has a long literary tradition that dates back to the writings of 19th-century English romantic poets and US authors. And the growing awareness of climate change has accelerated the development of environmental writings.

Animal’s People

by Indra Sinha

Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, looks at the Bhopal gas explosion in India – one of the most horrific environmental disasters of the 20th-century. A poisonous gas leak from a US-owned pesticide plant killed several thousand people and injured more than half a million.

The main character in the novel, Animal, is a 19-year-old orphaned boy who survives the explosion with a deformed body. This means he must “crawl like a dog on all fours”. Animal does not hate his body, but embraces his animistic identity – offering an unconventional non-human perspective.

With this wounded “human-animal” figure, Sinha puts forward his critique of India’s postcolonial conditions and demonstrates how Western capitalist domination continues to damage people and the environment in contemporary postcolonial society.

My Year of Meats

by Ruth Ozeki

Ruth Ozeki’s novel intermingles themes such as motherhood, environmental justice and ecological practice to explore the appalling use of growth hormones in the US meat industry from a feminist ecocritical perspective.

The novel employs a “documentary” narrative mode and begins with a TV cooking show – sponsored by a meat company. While filming the show, Jane Takagi-Little, the director, encounters a vegetarian lesbian couple who reveal the ugly truth about the use of growth hormones within the livestock industry. The encounter motivates Jane to undertake a documentary project to uncover how growth hormones poison women’s bodies.




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Through a deliberate choice to make all her main characters female, Ozeki draws her readers’ attention to nonconforming, atypical female figures who rebel against social or cultural norms inherent in patriarchal capitalist society.

Disgrace

by J.M. Coetzee

In Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee, a celebrated Noble Prize laureate, who is also known for his outspoken defence of animal rights, interweaves a brutal dog-killing scene with the gang-rape of a white South African woman by three black men.

Praised as one of the South African postcolonial canons, the novel explores complex issues of white supremacy and anticolonial resistance as well as racial and gender violence. It ties these issues with humans’ domination and exploitation of the animals and further challenges our ethical position.

The combination of these two acts – the killing of dogs and the rape of a woman – can be read as Coetzee’s ecocritique of the colonial violence against nonhuman beings and the natural environment.

The Man with the Compound Eyes

by Wu Ming-yi

Climate fiction or the so-called “cli-fi” takes on genuine scientific discovery or phenomenon and combines this with a dystopian or over the top twist. This approach underlines the agency of non-human beings, environments or even phenomena – such as trees, the ocean, or a tsunami.




Read more:
Imagining both utopian and dystopian climate futures is crucial – which is why cli-fi is so important


Wu Ming-yi’s novel is composed of four different narratives: a Taiwanese university professor, a boy from the mythical Wayo Wayo island and two other city-dwelling indigenous characters. Their stories are viewed in fragments from the multiple perspectives of the “compound eyes”. At the backdrop is a tsunami which causes the Great Pacific garbage patch to crash on to the eastern coast of Taiwan and the fictionalised Pacific island of Wayo Wayo that brings together all their stories.

Wu blends this unrealistic event with the real-life trash vortex to draw our attention to the severe environmental problems of waste dumping and our unsustainable lifestyles.

The Overstory

by Richard Powers

The Overstory is praised by critics for its ambition to bring awareness to the life of trees and its advocacy to an ecocentric way of life. Powers’ novel sets out with nine distinctive characters – which represent the “roots” of trees. Gradually their stories and lives intertwine to form the “trunk”, the “crown” and the “seeds”.

One of the characters, Dr Patricia Westerford, publishes a paper showing trees are social beings because they can communicate and warn each other when a foreign intrusion occurs. Her idea, though presented as controversial in the novel, is actually well supported by today’s scientific studies.

Despite her groundbreaking work, Dr Westerford ends up taking her own life by drinking poisonous tree extracts at a conference – to make it clear humans can only save trees and the planet by ceasing to exist.

These are just a few books with a specific focus on environmental issues – perfect for your current reading list. To everyone’s surprise, this global lockdown has given us some eco-benefits, such as a sudden dip in carbon emissions and the huge decline in our reliance on traditional fossil fuel energy. Maybe then if we can learn from this experience we can move towards a greener future.The Conversation

Ti-han Chang, Lecturer in Asia-Pacific Studies, University of Central Lancashire

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.