Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

Talking To My Country

First published: 2016
Found: recommendation of a library colleague
Pages/read time: 240, a week


This is the highly personal account of life as a person of Aboriginal heritage and the state of Australia today. As a journalist author of both Aboriginal and white descent, Stan Grant has long been a strong role model for generations following his lead. This book, however, is less a journalistic investigation as an articulate critique of the Australian nation’s reckoning with it’s own genocidal past. The tag line to this book rings true, ‘the book that every Australian should read’.

Born in 1963, Grant was raised during the tail-end of the White Australia Policy. His first book The Tears of Strangers (2013) is memoir focusing on the political and social changes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands (ATSI) Australians have endured in the forty years he himself has lived with them. Despite the barriers put in his way by these prevailing chauvinistic, pre-colonial attitudes, Grant has become a respected voice in the international journalism community and has held (and continues to occupy) major positions with ABC and SBS, CNN China and currently CNN UAE. This, his second book, was written in response to national targeting of Australian Football League player, Adam Goodes, who’s native heritage – something completely beyond his control – was the subject of ongoing negative media attention throughout 2015.

Grant, in no uncertain terms, is addressing the entire Australian nation. A significant task considering the ongoing attitudes of many members of our society. Weaving his own narrative of hardship through stories of his family, his community and the nation, Grant presents a contemporary and seminal view of the state of play in Australia now. Along with sections of critical analysis on current social trends, Grant displays his mastery of oral history. For instance, his unflinching descriptions of genocide crimes committed against the black population by the whites can pictured as vividly as the well-versed invasion day narrative of 1778, or the discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851. The latter are highlights of white history that make up the bulk of any school child’s education, the former are but a few examples of the great gaping chasm of the largely undocumented misery that the colonisers have inflicted on ATSI peoples.

It’s not literary genius, but it does convey hard and urgent truths from a individual qualified to speak from both sides of the society Australia has created. Grant is an approachable, fluent and engaging writer and, as such, this is not only a book every Australian should read, but crucially, an accessible text that most Australians can read.

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