Last year I tried to get stuck into reading as much popular fiction by Indigenous authors as I could. Jared Thomas, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Tony Birch and Jane Harrison all left their mark on my mind, but something about KIRRALI LEWIS remained with me. I think it was because the quiet heartbreak and joy of Kirrali’s story really changed the way I looked at the world, reminded me that a white perspective is not the only perspective – for all that it tends to be the dominant one in Australia, a land where the perspectives of the existing population have long been pushed aside – and that it’s possible to have your life and viewpoint changed over the course of a life.
I enjoyed the way the narrative sucked me in gradually, until I was halfway through the book before I realised I was looking at events in a different way, and my expectations of what would happen and how had changed. I was expecting Kirrali to have a tearful reunion with her Indigenous biological mum – that didn’t happen. I was expecting Kirrali’s biological father to be really invested in her emotionally – that didn’t happen either. But the way things played out in the book felt real, felt true. And because events and plot twists upended my expectations, I had a closer emotional connection to the characters: life is complicated, and the story reflected that.
Jane Harrison’s debut YA novel was a ‘quiet’ book, and there’s been some discussion about whether ‘quiet’ books will continue to be published, as they don’t have the razzle-dazzle and mega-sales that prompts a publisher to sign on for more. I really hope they do – we need all kinds of variety in local literature, especially in YA. There’s teacher’s discussion notes for KIRRALI too, which might be of interest to the librarians and teachers in our little bookclub group.
If you have a comment about BECOMING KIRRALI LEWIS, feel free to leave it here or in the comments thread at the #LoveOzYAbookclub Facebook group page – you can leave a 1-5 star rating, if you’re time-pressed. I’m very curious now to see what you all thought about KIRRALI, and please stay tuned for the next announcement of the September title.
Stay cool, bookclubbers – and stay warm, in these chilly end-of-winter months!