Literature Opinion

Another Australia: Exploring cultural diversity

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Elizabeth Spiegel shares her thoughts on a new book in which 12 diverse writers reveal another Australia hidden behind, beneath and beside the country we think we know.

AUSTRALIAN PUBLISHING is very White and very Anglo. There are, of course, exceptions, but the industry as a whole doesn’t come close to reflecting the diversity of modern Australia.

In Another Australia, editor Winnie Dunn has brought together works by 12 writers from outside the mainstream — Indigenous people, migrants and first-generation Australians. It includes poetry in both English and Yuwaalaraay, historical essays, memoirs and short stories. Frustratingly, it isn’t always clear which of the short stories are retellings of actual events and which are fictional. Did Shirley Le and her mother visit a fortune teller when she was 11? Did a wedding guest really question whether Sara M Saleh was ‘half Leb or Leb Leb’?

Several pieces tackle the challenge of negotiating multiple identities — Australian and Sikh, Australian and Lebanese, Australian and South African. The central character in Shankari Chandran’s ‘Gr8ful’ asks us to reflect on what it really means to demand that successful migrants be “grateful” for what they have achieved in Australia. Osman Faruqi expresses his awareness of being both coloniser (in Australia) and colonised (in the Punjab).

Overall, the perspectives on offer are challenging, but the quality of the writing is somewhat uneven. The narrator in Declan Fry’s tale of couch surfing in Amsterdam rambles on, but his writing doesn’t seem to take us anywhere.

As intended, Another Australia has introduced me to authors whose work I might not otherwise have picked up from the bookshop and opened my eyes to new perspectives on the country in which I’ve lived all my life.

‘Another Australia’ is available from Booktopia for $24.25 (paperback) RRP.

This book was reviewed by an IA Book Club member. If you would like to receive free high-quality books and have your review published on IA, subscribe to Independent Australia for your complimentary IA Book Club membership.

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