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I discovered Sally Morgan’s memoir ‘My Place‘ when I was searching for books written by indigenous Australian writers.

Sally Morgan starts her memoir by talking about her childhood. She describes how life was hard for her and her family, how her mother took care of her and her siblings with the help of her grandmother, how her father (who fought in the Second World War) was either in or out of hospitals and how when he was out of hospitals he spent most of his time at the bar getting drunk with his friends. One day Sally’s classmates in school ask her where she is from, the dreaded question that all immigrants are asked. When she says she is from here, they change tack and ask her where her parents are from. When Sally comes home that evening, she asks her mother the same question. Her mother asks her to tell her classmates that they came from India. Sally is not very convinced but lets it be. Then later Sally’s sister Jill tells her that they are  indigenous Australians or Aborigines. Sally is surprised that this is the first time she is hearing about it and she decides to explore her roots. What happens after that and the secrets that tumble out of the Pandora box are told in the rest of the book.

My Place‘ is a beautiful, insightful memoir. It is heartbreaking to read about all the challenges that indigenous Australians went through, the inhuman treatment they suffered at the hands of the government and the law, and how sometimes they couldn’t keep their own children as they were taken away by the government. Sally Morgan’s story is interspersed by first hand stories narrated by her grandmother’s brother Arthur, her mother Glad and her grandmother Daisy. These stories were my favourite parts of the book. I loved Arthur’s story very much. I also loved the early part of the book in which Sally Morgan talks about her childhood, especially the part in which she describes the pets they kept in her family and how everyone in her family loved animals.

I loved ‘My Place‘. This is the first book by an Australian indigenous author I’ve ever read, and I am glad I discovered it.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book.

“It was halfway through the second term of my fourth year at school that I suddenly discovered a friend. Our teacher began reading stories about Winnie the Pooh every Wednesday. From then on, I was never sick on Wednesdays. In a way, discovering Pooh was my salvation. He made me feel more normal. I suppose I saw something of myself in him. Pooh lived in a world of his own and he believed in magic, the same as me. He wasn’t particularly good at anything, but everyone loved him, anyway. I was fascinated by the way he could make an adventure out of anything, even tracks in the snow. And while Pooh was obsessed with honey, I was obsessed with drawing. When I couldn’t find any paper or pencils, I would fish small pieces of charcoal from the fire, and tear strips off the paperbark tree in our yard and draw on that. I drew in the sand, on the footpath, the road, even on the walls when Mum wasn’t looking. One day, a neighbour gave me a batch of oil paints left over from a stint in prison. I felt like a real artist. My drawings were very personal. I hated anyone watching me draw. I didn’t even like people seeing my drawings when they were finished. I drew for myself, not anyone else. One day, Mum asked me why I always drew sad things. I hadn’t realised until then that my drawings were sad. I was shocked to see my feelings glaring up at me from the page. I became even more secretive about anything I drew after that.”

You can find Lisa’s (from ANZ Litlovers) review of the book here.

Have you read Sally Morgan’sMy Place‘? What do you think about it?

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