Reading First Nations Writers

Introducing my ‘Reading First Nations Writers’ project

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I need a new reading project that will help shape my reading year.

For the past six years, I’ve used the Australian Women Writers Challenge to help do this, but the challenge, as we know it, has now ceased. It’s going off in a new direction, celebrating older, less well-known women writers in an attempt to rescue them from history’s big black hole, a noble idea and one that I will be following closely. But sadly, the participatory element — of adding your reviews to an online database — has gone.

I figured that I might just spend all of 2022 reading on a whim. I participated in so many reading challenges and reading weeks hosted on other blogs during the course of last year that following my own agenda this year seemed quite tempting. But my reading in January was a bit directionless and I realised I don’t want to continue along those lines.

I want a new project, one that I can spread out over the course of a year, that will challenge me to read outside of my comfort zone, introduce me to new voices and perspectives, as well as provide some entertainment and escapism as well as education and enlightenment. (I don’t want much, do I? 😂)

The recent ABC TV series Books That Made Us highlighted how indigenous Australian writers are going through a boom right now. And while I was chuffed to discover that I had read most of the novels name-checked, the show also introduced me to some new names and book titles I was keen to explore. Given I have several books by Aboriginal Australians in my TBR already, it seemed logical to create a project that would encourage me to tackle them.

And so, I give you my Reading First Nations Writers project.

Between now and the end of December, I’d like to read and review at least 12 books by First Nations writers. I’m going to rely heavily on my local library, which has a dedicated indigenous section, but I’m also keen to read books I already have on my shelves, including Benevolence by Julie Janson, Carpentaria and The Swan Book, both by Alexis Wright, Billa Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss and The Old Lie by Claire G. Coleman.

I might also take some inspiration from this list, compiled by Readings book store, and, of course, there’s always Lisa’s amazing indigenous literature reading list to use for inspiration.

I’d be delighted if you wanted to join along. You don’t have to read books by indigenous Australians — First Nations is a broad term to include indigenous peoples from around the world (although it mainly applies to Australia and Canada as per this Wkipedia entry). Feel free to use my logo above and link back here or send a trackback so I know you’ve participated.

I will build a page, similar to my #FocusOnWesternAustralianWriters, so I can track my progress because even though I will be #ReadingFirstNationsWriters in 2022, I expect this will be a long-term project stretching into the years ahead. I’m really looking forward to it.

UPDATE (13 FEB): You will now find a dedicated page under ‘projects’ on the main menu bar of this blog. Or simply click here.

22 thoughts on “Introducing my ‘Reading First Nations Writers’ project”

  1. Alexis Wright is the best writer in Australia right now, and Kim Scott is second. Both Indigenous. I will certainly read along with you where I can. Julie Janson is a writer I don’t know, so that might be the place for me to start.
    I look forward to your reviews

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    1. I bought both Wright novels on Kindle because the font size in the print editions is minuscule and my poor old eyes just could not cope!

      Janson is the author whose novel is in response to Grenville’s The Secret River. I started it for one of Lisa’s indigenous lit weeks but put it aside when things got a bit busy at work and then never went back to it.

      I’ve started reading Mudrooroo’s Wild Cat Falling… regardless of the controversy around his ancestry I’m going to include him in this project.

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  2. There are some fantastic Canadian Indigenous writers. A couple that I highly recommend are Five Little Indians (fiction) and Life in the City of Dirty Water (memoir). I have lived in Canada all of my life but have just recently, within the last two years, really started reading more indigenous works. My heart breaks learning about what was done to them. It opened my eyes to the fact that if my skin was brown rather than white, I would’ve been taken from my home too. I don’t know if you are interested, however, every year our Canadian public television station (CBC) holds a book competition where five books compete over four days and at the end of the fourth day one book wins and is the book that every Canadian should read that year. They have announced the competitors for this year‘s event and it will be held at the end of March. I’m mentioning this because there’s always one or more indigenous books included in the competition. If you Google “Canada Reads 2022” you will see this years competition and you can go back and look at past years on that site also. Even if you’re not in Canada, you can still watch the event via the Internet.

    Good luck with your project!

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    1. Thanks for your great comment, Gwen. I used to shadow the Giller Prize when bloggerKevin from Canada was still alive so have read a few First Nations books that have appeared on the shortlists. I have also followed, via social media, the Canada Reads stuff and always thought it was an idea that Australia could “steal” and adapt as our own. It’s such a great way to normalise reading and promote it to the masses and to celebrate home-grown writers, whether indigenous or not. I will look up the titles you have mentioned… Five Little Indians rings a bell for some reason. Maybe I have seen a review of it on someone else’s blog.

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  3. I think this is a terrific project, but I’d struggle to join in. Not one of the writers you mention features in my library’s catalogue, and it’s pretty much the same story for First Nations writers in the Americas too. I may have to start off my enjoying and taking note of the reviews you and others post.

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    1. I will make a point of listing worldwide availability on my reviews. They’re more likely to be available as ebooks simply because it allows Australian publishers to get their titles to market without having to tap into complicated distribution and logistical networks. An ebook just requires an upload ! Perhaps look out for books by Tara June Winch… she’s based in France and her latest novel, The Yield, was published in the UK last year.

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  4. Wonderful reading project, Kim! I’ve heard of only Alexis Wright out of the writers you’ve mentioned. Love the title ‘Billa Yarrudhanggalangdhuray’. Such a beautiful tongue-twister! Just that title makes me want to read that book. Happy reading! Will look forward to following your reading adventures.

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  5. I am delighted to see this, Kim, and thank you for the link!
    So many wonderful books to read, but I’d like to suggest anything by Melissa Lucashenko is good to read and I’m particularly fond of Marie Munkara’s whip-smart satires.
    And if any of your readers do join you, please remind them that they can add their reviews to the reading list at mine, especially during #IndigLitWeek in July…

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    1. Oh, that’s a great idea, Lisa. I will include that suggestion to add to your database under each review I post. I was looking for Marie Munkara books in Freo library but unfortunately they don’t have any, but I see she’s listed on Amazon UK (my Kindle is tied to that account) and are reasonably priced at around £6 so might have to make a purchase!

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