Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ruby Moonlight was an unexpected book for me. A friend at work recommended it because she knows I like poetry, and she totally nailed it. This is a remarkable verse novel. Economical with its language, it nonetheless manages to be exquisitely evocative of both place and emotion. Eckermann’s connection to the natural world is deep and profound and she connects the woman at the centre of this story to it really well. A doomed relationship set against the backdrop of ignorance and colonialist racism is completely believable and devastating.
I would recommend this to anyone studying the impact of white colonialism on the indigenous population of Australia (indeed, any nation), and those who value every story, no matter who tells it.
Ages 13 and up.
Teacher – One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching by Gabbie Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you are a teacher you will, at some point, recognise yourself in this book. I did and, while I am not a teacher, I work closely with students every day. If you are not a teacher, you will want to walk up to every teacher you know and THANK them for what they do every day. For how they care, for the time they sacrifice, for the absolute gut-wrenching crap they have to endure most of the time to make sure your children, OUR children, get the best education possible.
This is a harrowing read. No doubt. There are moments of emotional uplift, but mostly this is a very raw, very real account of how the joy of teaching, as a profession and a calling, is being constantly eroded and demeaned by powers who have no business dictating a letter, let alone dictating what the national curriculum should be. Gabbie Stroud’s voice is loud and clear. Teacher is a highly readable and extremely well-written memoir, and a searing indictment on our education system and its “standards”. Our education system is broken. This book won’t fix that, but Gabbie’s voice, the voice of so many educators out there, needs to be heard. By everyone. Read it, cry, then resolve to never let another child sit the NAPLAN and to tell your child’s teacher they are valued, that they MATTER. A heartbreaking call to arms. A must read for EVERY parent of school-aged children, and everyone else too. Highly recommended.
The Ink Bridge by Neil Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a book I had been looking forward to reading very much, and as I read the first part of the novel, focussing on Omed and his story, I thought it would live up to my expectations. Omed’s life is a dangerous one, full of violence and uncertainty. The scenes where his tongue is cut out were among the most emotionally effecting I have read. I was enjoying Grant’s writing style and flourishes of prose. Then I started reading Hec’s story…and then the story of Hec as an adult trying to reconnect with Omed and it lost me. I found Hec a difficult character to like. I found it difficult to picture him in the situations he found himself. I found it even harder to connect with him as an adult character as I did not know enough about him as a child (in the middle part of the book). Even the ending felt incomplete to me. I was surprised to find myself not really caring whether the two were reunited. It just felt like the story had lost momentum for me and resorted to some cliched media-driven vignettes. My favourite part was the section about Omed and his situation in Afghanistan. To me, that is where the story was and for that I give this book 3 stars. I am disappointed I can’t give this a better write-up, because I certainly expected a lot more.
The Happiest Refugee: A Memoir by Anh Do
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved this biography/autobiography. I really hope the rumours I have heard about Anh not actually writing this book turn out to be false.
This is a story not just of Anh, but of his whole family and their triumph over very difficult circumstances. The writing style is VERY easy to read and I whipped through this in a day. The stories from Anh’s childhood are poignant and fascinating – there is much self-deprication here, and gratitude.
Certainly, as I read of the terrifying ordeal Anh’s family went through on the boat getting out of Vietnam, I realised just how lucky I was to be born here in Australia. The troubled relationship with his father and, later, the wonderful reconciliation were lovely to read.
Anh comes across as a loving son and brother, and his devotion to Suzie, his wife, is palpable. They truly seem like soulmates and it is clear by the end of the book that Anh is very happy with his lot here in Australia.
I thoroughly recommend this as a light but very interesting holiday read.