Stan Grant’s ‘Talking to my Country’

September 8 2016
By Stephanie Chan

‘The book that every Australian should read’

Journalist and Indigenous Australian Stan Grant shares his experiences growing up black, in white Australia in his memoir Talking to My Country. This is an easy read that also delves into some raw and deep issues about Australia’s history. Grant takes his readers on a journey through the hardships, troubles and fears of his upbringing.

Despite the blood, sweat and tears that taint the history of his people, Grant writes in a very calm and gentle tone. This book doesn’t aim to spark controversy but creates understanding. This is part of a larger discussion that has been silenced for so long. It shows Australia through the eyes of an Indigenous person and how history affects the way they live life.

This book is in response to the controversy surrounding Indigenous AFL star Adam Goodes, who has been booed by football crowds and called racist names. In 2015, Stan Grant wrote an article called ‘I can tell you how Adam Goodes feels. Every Indigenous person has felt it’ for The Guardian. This book is an extension of this piece, to help Australians understand why Indigenous Australians can’t just forget the past and ‘move on’.

In Talking to my Country, 52-year-old Wiradjuri man Stan Grant shares bittersweet memories of his life so far. His memories of death, racism and poverty reminds us that issues faced by Indigenous Australians isn’t in the distant past but it’s still fresh today. Among the dark times, Grant also shares little moments of hope. From his loving parents to when it was cool to be Indigenous and even the white kids wanted to be like them!

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Pictured: Stan Grant’s new novel, Talking to my Country. Source: Stephanie Chan.

Grant draws many parallels between black and white Australia in interesting and perplexing ways. In part three of the book, Grant traces his family tree back to two contrasting men, John Grant an Irish convict and Wongamar a man from the banks of the Belabula.

“John Grant died the wealthiest Irish Catholic in the colonies, man sent in chains, a rebel, died an aristocrat,” Grant said at the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

In his book Grant cleverly compares the physical chains white convicts wore to the emotional chains Indigenous Australian wore and still wear today.

“…for white people, being poor didn’t define them in the way our blackness defined us. Poverty itself could be temporary and if by chance or effort they broke its chains, there’d be a white world waiting. But we would be black and that would always pose uncomfortable questions for Australia.”

These are the moments that kept flipping pages and left me wanting more. I hoped these moments would pop up again when things became repetitive. Though Grant’s honest and emotional voice is distinctive and refreshing, things often got lost in his thoughts.

Talking to my Country doesn’t contribute to the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, but speaks to Australia as a whole. This is Grant’s attempt to help people understand life an Indigenous Australian and help erase the divide.

“So here we are: all of us in this country- our country.’

 

4/5 stars

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