'In 1982, Sally Morgan travelled back to her grandmother's birthplace. What started as a tentative search for information about her family, turned into an overwhelming emotional and spiritual pilgrimage. My Place is a moving account of a search for truth into which a whole family is gradually drawn, finally freeing the tongues of the author's mother and grandmother, allowing them to tell their own stories.' Source: Publisher's blurb.
'Published in 1987, the year before the bicentenary of Australian settlement, Sally Morgan's autobiographical bildungsroman, My Place, has achieved a rare success —it has become an iconic Australian text that circulates widely overseas. It has also been subject to pungent controversy in Australia, from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous critics. Its initial success stemmed in part from the timeliness of its publication. While plans were under way to commemorate two hundred years since the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour, under the theme of "one land, one people," Morgan challenged a celebratory version of Australian history with her personal narrative of the exclusion of Aborigines from national belonging. Her book narrates her search to confirm her Aboriginal heritage, which she comes to discover only in her late teens, and to find out why her mother and grandmother have denied it. Published during the lead-up to the history wars, a period of intense debate about the nation's treatment of Indigenous peoples during and since British colonization, My Place enabled many white readers to engage with its battler suburban version of Aboriginality and of Australia's colonial past. (Introduction)
'This article looks at the ideological ramifications of the narrative strategies that twentieth-century Aboriginal prose texts use to negotiate indigenous Australian identities. The central thesis is that after a period during which narratives by Aboriginal authors by necessity followed the form of the life histories to detail the actual experiences of oppression under the British settlers and past Australian governments, more recent indigenous Australian narratives are expressive of a regained confidence in playfully asserting Aboriginal identities. One can observe three developments in indigenous Australian narratives of the late twentieth century. First, the mode of fiction gradually increases its prevalence. Second, there has been a movement away from reports of what the colonisers did to indigenous Australians towards the foregrounding of more rebellious Aboriginal characters. Third, one can detect a significant increase in playfulness in narratives by indigenous Australian authors.' (Publication abstract)
In this essay Heiss discusses Indigenous-authored works that are targeted for upper-primary and young adult readers, that address issues of identity, self esteem, relationships and peer-group pressure that are available for both educators and students. Heiss recommends that these works discussed in this essay, will not only engage young Indigenous students, but also non-Indigenous students and other readers with a sense of sameness in terms of coming of age, facing friendships, and the growing pains that all teenagers face.
'The stories told by Ruby Langford Ginibi in Don't Take Your Love to Town, Sally Morgan My Place, and Mudrooroo in Wild Cat Falling provide the starting point for discussions on some of the key events and issues that have affected Aboriginal people.
Part 1: 'Aboriginal Experience' looks at the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families, and denial of Aboriginality and equal rights. Part 2: 'Reclaiming Identity' looks at the importance of the family and the land to Aboriginal people and their quest to reclaim their identity.'
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