July’s People

July's PeopleJuly’s People by Nadine Gordimer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In July’s People, Nadine Gordimer imagines a violent, chaotic end to South Africa’s apartheid system: all-out war between black and white, with other nations getting involved (like Russia, Cuba, the US), mainly to support their own self-interest. Continue reading

Indigenous reading challenge

My 2015 challenge: the wrap up

On Invasion (Australia) Day 2015, I set myself, and anyone else who cared to participate, the challenge of reading at least 5 books by Indigenous authors within the year.

The motivation I gave for doing this challenge was ‘to better understand the experiences and cultures of the traditional custodians of the land we live on’. Of course books are not the only way to do this. When I was a student in the 1980s I read a lot about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, politics and culture, but since then I’ve continued learning from Indigenous radio and TV programs, and from working with Aboriginal colleagues.

But I do love books — the long read — and I decided it was unacceptable that books by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so rarely made it onto my bookshelf. Setting the Indigenous Reading Challenge was a way of making sure that they got back onto my to-be-read (TBR) list. Continue reading

Proxima

17983396-proximaImagine my surprise when the last book I read in 2015, hard science fiction about interplanetary colonisation by British author Stephen Baxter, inadvertently slotted itself into the Indigenous Reading Challenge I set myself earlier in the year.

The book – Proxima – is not a perfect fit with the challenge because it is not by an Indigenous author, but one of the main characters is Aboriginal Australian.

– SPOILERS –

Continue reading

My year according to Book Bingo

Reading is my drug. I use it to escape, I do it compulsively. The stories I read invade my dreams and disrupt my sleep. If I let it get out of hand, reading gets in the way of interacting with actual live humans. I have to ration myself, to stay in control rather than letting it control me.

reading-bingo-smallOne way I stay in control is to push at the boundaries of my reading comfort zone so that I’m stretching my mind and not just gorging on familiar comfort food. I do this by joining reading challenges and being in a book club.

This year I also participated in a fundraising Readathon, inviting my sponsors to choose the books they wanted me to read (I had a TBR list for them to choose from, but most of them ignored it and nominated their own favourites).

So with all my stretching and flexing of reading muscle, I read widely and deeply and almost managed to pull off a Books Bingo. Continue reading

In close up: Looking for the Carpet People

As long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed imagining that the ground beneath my feet is inhabited by tiny beings. These fantasies were  — and are — especially strong when I explore rock platforms.

rock-pool20131230_141254Long before I knew what it was like to look down at the world from a plane, I liked the feeling that I had a birdseye view of landscapes that were home to miniature civilisations perched on craggy cliffs overlooking vast waterways, or huddled in oases among rocky wastelands. Continue reading

Hadji Murad

Khadzhi-MuratUntil a few days ago, I had never heard of Hadji Murad. I now know that he was a Chechen leader in the mid 19th century, during a period when the Russians, under Tsar Nicholas I, were expanding their empire into the Caucasus.

Hadji Murad (or Murat) surrendered to the Russians in 1851 in the hope that they would help him gain ascendance over another Chechen leader: his former ally and current enemy Shamil (who was holding his family hostage). When the Russian army failed to rescue his family, Hadji Murad escaped from house arrest in a desperate effort to do it himself. Continue reading