Ten books you need to read by First Nation’s writers

Everyone knows Tara June Winch’s The Yield and Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu but we wanted to delve a little deeper to find some fabulous reads along the banks of the mainstream. Here is our list of ten books by First Nations writers you need to read.

Too Afraid To Cry, Ali Cobby Eckermann’s

This memoir’s bare blunt prose and piercingly lyrical verse is the story of a people profoundly wronged, told through the frank eyes of a child, and the troubled mind of that child as an adult, whose life was irretrievably changed by being tricked away from her mob and adopted into a German Lutheran family. Autobiographical and deeply poetic, this book has stayed with us for years. Exciting to see Eckermann is now on the HSC English reading lists!

Guwayu – for all Times, Red Room Poetry

A collection of First Nations poems curated by Wiradjuri poet Jeanine Leane, this stunning suite of poems commissioned by Red Room Poetry over the past 16 years, is a fiercely uncensored collection featuring 61 poems in English and 12 First Nations languages. With a wide range of poetic forms from lyric, confessional, protest, narrative and song, this beautifully crafted book showcases new voices as well as established poets.

The Boy from the Mish, Gary Lonesborough

Exploring who you are takes a lot of courage. This Yuin writer’s first book is a funny and big-hearted queer Indigenous young adult novel set in a rural Australian community. It’s a branch of hope extended to teenagers who think they’re alone.

Drop Bear, Evelyn Araluen

An innovative collection of poetry and prose from an award winning and vibrant Indigenous voice, Araluen is so well respected in the Australian literary scene. This fierce debut with its social justice flavour confronts the tropes and the iconography of an unreconciled nation with biting satire and lyrical fury.

The White Girl, Tony Birch

This award-winning writer is a little more mainstream but still included on our list in case you haven’t discovered. This book is an incredibly powerful work of fact/fiction. Birch has created memorable characters, capturing most poignantly, their capacity for love and courage. We see this novel as a timely reminder of the endurance of the human spirit.

The Cherry Picker’s Daughter, Kerry Reed-Gilbert

This second edition is an exquisite portrait of growing up Aboriginal on the fringes of outback towns in NSW in the mid-twentieth century. It’s an important book with profound insights into the extraordinary strength, resilience and ingenuity of Aboriginal families as they overcome extreme poverty, persecution, racism and cultural genocide.

Blakwork, Alison Whittaker 

A stunning mix of memoir, reportage, fiction, satire, and critique composed by a powerful new voice in poetry. Alison Whittaker’s Blakwork is an original and unapologetic collection from which two things emerge; an incomprehensible loss, and the poet’s fearless examination of the present.

Kindred, Kirli Saunder 

This debut poetry collection is a pleasure to lose yourself in. Saunders has a keen eye for observation, humour and the big themes that surround us – Love/Connection/Loss. Her poetry talks to identity, culture, community and the role of Earth as healer. She’s a young writer and we’re keenly following.

The Swan Book, Alexis Wright

By the Miles Franklin winning author, this book is set in the future, with Aboriginal peoples still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change.

Albert Namatjira, Vincent Namatjira

Although it’s officially a children’s picture book, it made our list because we LOVE Vincent’s work and here his moving paintings are accompanied by evocative text recording the pivotal moments in his great grandfather Albert’s life.

The artwork in this book is part of a body of work called ‘Albert’s Story’ recently acquired by QAGOMA – Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art.

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