Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 7, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation, from Tales of the City, to…

This time #6Degrees features a book I haven’t read.  It’s Tales of the City (1978)by Armistead Maupin.  It was ground-breaking in its time because it was about gay life in San Francisco, and if you’ve caught up with current ABC programs about the 40th anniversary of the Gay Pride march in Sydney, you’ll be aware just how different the landscape was back then in the 70s.

Times have changed but it’s still not easy as you can see in Jared Thomas’s Songs That Sound Like Blood (2016).  It offers an insight into LGBTI Indigenous young people coming to terms with same-sex relationships where traditional values in families don’t guarantee the kind of support you’d hope to get.

Dr Jared Thomas is a Nukunu man from the Southern Flinders Ranges, and because #IndigLitWeek starts tomorrow here at ANZ LitLovers, I wondered if I had read any other Indigenous authors from South Australia.  After consulting my Indigenous Literature Reading List, I discovered that yes, I’ve read Mazin Grace, (2012) by Dylan Coleman who is a member of the Kokatha Mula Nation in the north of South Australia.

In this gentle coming-of-age story based loosely on her mother’s life, Coleman shows how missionary life corrupted traditional Indigenous values of inclusivity. Marie Munkara, however, chose a form of savage but wickedly funny satire to lampoon the hypocrisy of the missionaries in A Most Peculiar Act (2014).  The trouble is, it’s not really funny at all…

Marie Munkara also wrote a moving memoir called Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea (2016) which tells the poignant story of discovering her Aboriginal family.  While there are other mixed race people in her community. she is the only one in her family, and she is the only one who has lived an entire life elsewhere.  Although she retains her sense of humour in this book,   Munkara – as I say in my review shows us that reunions of the Stolen Generations are not simply a matter of matching up the records in dusty archives.

Thinking about the difficulties associated with re-establishing connections with Indigenous family made me think about the times when people who should know better have questioned the authenticity of Indigenous identity.  In a splendid riposte, Anita Heiss wrote Am I Black Enough For You? (2012).  To quote from my review:

Everyone knows that Reconciliation with Australia’s indigenous people is a challenge: we haven’t come to terms with Australia’s Black History and too many indigenous people suffer racism and extreme disadvantage.  But that is not the whole story, and part of the story that Anita Heiss wants to tell is that there are urban Aborigines living successful lives which are enriched by their culture.  Her ‘mission’ is to make the wider community aware that Aboriginality is diverse and that fair-skinned, successful, educated, middle-class women like her are part of it.

Anita Heiss writes across a range of genres including what she jokingly calls ‘choc-lit and a recent foray into historical fiction with Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms, and with that strategy she spreads that message to people through novels written to entertain. Philip McLaren does the same thing with genre fiction, writing historical fiction such as Sweet Water, Stolen Land (1993, re-released 2001 by Magabala Books).  This novel is set in Australia’s unedifying frontier history, where (to quote my own review):

McLaren engages his readers with an enthralling series of murders.  Someone is killing mission pioneers on the boundary and desecrating their bodies.  The Aboriginal artifacts strewn about at the crime scene are enough for Sergeant Thompson to haul in hordes of male Aborigines but the perspicacious reader has noted other suspects – and even when McLaren artfully reveals who it is, there is no quick and easy arrest as there is in the movies, for the author is more sophisticated than that.

*smile*  You can see what I’ve so cunningly done here with #6Degrees.  I’ve linked to books by Indigenous authors whose work I want to celebrate during 2018 Indigenous Literature Week.  Proof, I think, that there’s a wealth of great writing by Indigenous authors, so join in, why don’t you?  See

  • the #IndigLit Week sign up post here
  • a list of sensational Indigenous women writers here, and
  • the ANZ LitLovers Indigenous Reading List here – which is what I used to compile this #6Degrees with a difference!


So that’s it…  #6Degrees for this month:) Thanks to Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best for hosting!



  1. Very cunning Lisa. Love it.


  2. Yes, I saw what you did there – very clever and even better, a raft of interesting books :)


    • Hello, good to see you here:)
      It was as I was I was writing it that I saw afresh the depth and scope of Indigenous writing. There was a time, I’m not proud to admit, that I thought it was all sad memoirs – but not any more, if indeed it ever was!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You roped me in: I just downloaded the Munkara. I’m better acquainted with Australian English now, I should be OK.


    • yay! Which one, A Most Peculiar Act, or Of Ashes and Rivers That Run to the Sea?


      • Of Ashes and Rivers That Runs to the Sea. Currently with it in the metro in Paris.


        • What a great place to read it!


          • I like it so far.


  4. I just want all of these books to magically appear on my bookshelf. Where does one start? They all look sooooo good!!!


  5. Before I knew there was a book, Tales of the City was a mini-series in the U.S. and I really loved the characters.


    • I think they showed it here too, but I don’t watch much TV and I missed it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great range of books Lisa. I’m away at the moment and have very limited www access – will post some plugs for Indigenous Literature Week when I get back.


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