Tag Archives: Australia

‘Becoming Kirrali Lewis’

7 Aug

I have also recently read Becoming Kirrali Lewis.  I read this text, hoping to discover a great Australian text that I could use in Year 9 instead of Deadly, Unna? which is not universally adored by students.

The text explores the experiences of Kirrali Lewis, an Aboriginal girl adopted into a white family, and her experiences during her first year of law school in the city.  The raised a number of important issues about identity, conflict and relationships which I think would interest some students.  However, the scope of experiences and short length of the book meant that these issues were, at times, left unexplored or not fully developed.

While I’m not sure my current Year 9 class would love this book, it is nonetheless something I would be interested in teaching.  With this in mind, I think it would be well placed as part of a textual pairing, perhaps with Taika Waititi’s film Boy.  Both texts explore the complexities of family relationships and the impact absent and found parents have on identity.

Familiar environments

30 Jan

Alice Eather’s poem ‘My Story Is Your Story‘ is a powerful poem about the different ways in which Indigenous and non-Indigenous people view Aboriginal land.  Through a series of haunting contrasts Eather is able to communicate the tension between connection to land and destruction for profit.

This would be an interesting text to study as part of a unit about Australian identity as it highlights the fundamental disconnect between viewpoints and, in turn, flags the callous disregard corporations can have for established and entrenched cultural connections.

It would also be an interesting text to study in AOS Discovery for HSC.  Considered alongside The Tempest, for example, it could be used to highlight how perspectives shape discovery.  Considered alongside Go Back to Where You Came From, it could be used to enrich a discussion regarding discovery, Australian identity, racism and responsibility.

The text could also be used as part of a junior AOS with a focus on change, belonging or journeys.  Here, focus would need to be on the role of context in shaping representation and value.

Eather’s poem could also be studied alongside, or as part of a suite of poetry which includes, Selina Nwulu’s ‘Home is a Hostile Lover‘. Together, the poems offer interesting representations of connection to place and the role of corporations in threatening the physicality and sacredness of place.

 

AOS Journeys

8 Jul

A number of schools are looking to revitalise their Year 10 and Year 11 courses by introducing Areas of Studies that better prepare their students for AOS Discovery in Year 12.  A popular choice seems to be AOS Journeys.  With this in mind, I have compiled a list of texts which could be used as related material for a unit with ‘Journeys’ as the conceptual focus.  The list is not arranged in any particular order, and I will continue adding to it over time.

  1. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (novel)
  2. The Ultimate Safari by Nadine Gordimer (short story)
  3. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (novel)
  4. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You by Hanna Jansen (biography)
  5. ‘I am an African’ by Thabo Mbeki (speech)
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (novel)
  7. ‘I Have a Dream’ by Martin Luther King Jnr (speech)
  8. ‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage (poem)
  9. ‘Refugee Blues’ by W.H. Auden (poem)
  10. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (autobiography)
  11. ‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou (poem)
  12. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (novel) (or the film adaptation)
  13. September, directed by Peter Carstairs (film)
  14. Selected The Gods of Wheat Street episodes (television drama)
  15. The Secret Life of Walter Mittydirected by Ben Stiller (film)
  16. Cartography for Beginners‘ by Emily Hasler (poem)
  17. ‘Journey to the Interior’ by Margaret Atwood (poem)
  18. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (novel)
  19. ‘And of Clay We Are Created’ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  20. Cool Runnings, directed by Jon Turteltaub (film)
  21. For Colored Girls, directed by Tyler Perry (film)
  22. The Second Bakery Attack‘ by Haruki Murakami (short story)
  23. Americannah by Chimmamanda Ngozi Adichie (novel)
  24. All That I Am by Anna Funder (novel)
  25. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (novel) (or the film aedaptation)
  26. Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata (film)
  27. A Mighty Heart, directed by Michael Winterbottom (film)
  28. Girl Rising, directed by Richard E. Robbins (film)
  29. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (play)
  30. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (play)
  31. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (novel)
  32. Anzac Girls (television series)
  33. Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis (novel)
  34. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (novel)
  35. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (novel)
  36. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (novel)
  37. Meet the Patels, directed by Ravi and Geeta Patel (film)
  38. Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen (film)
  39. The Testimony, directed by Vanessa Block (documentary)
  40. The Lie‘ by T. Coraghessan Boyle (short story)
  41. Lion, directed by Garth Davis (film)
  42. A Sheltered Woman‘ by Yiyun Li (short story)
  43. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (novel)
  44. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (memoir)
  45. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah (memoir)
  46. ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire (poem)
  47. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (film or graphic novel)
  48. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (novel)
  49. Freedom Writers, directed by Richard LaGravenese (film)
  50. The African Doctor, directed by Julien Rambaldi (film)

Life as a refugee

27 May

I was hoping to run a unit this year in which students would explore the voices of migrants.  Unfortunately, the constraints of the program and the realities of my classes meant this was not possible.

One poem that I would have studied as part of this unit was Abe Nouk’s ‘The Stigma of Having Lived as a Refugee‘.  In this poem, Nouk recounts his own experiences living as a refugee and coming to Australia.  He also ends with a plea for Australia to do more to help people who, like him and his family, fled difficult and dangerous realities.

Another poem by Nouk that is worthy of inclusion is ‘Story of  Refugee‘.  In this poem, he reflects on the role of writing in helping him to articulate his experiences, his identity and his perspectives.

If studied as part of a unit with an Australian focus, this text could be studied alongside other refugee poets.  If studied as part of a unit with a global focus, Nouk’s poem would be interesting to study alongside Warsan Shire’s ‘Home’ and Selina Nwulu’s ‘Before’.

The sounds, sights and emotions of war

18 May

I am on a mission to help my junior students to engage with key poetic techniques and truly understand the effect of such techniques.  With this goal in mind, I recently ran an activity in which students were given a selection of neutrally worded scenarios pertaining to war and had to work in groups to come up with a list of similes, metaphors, examples of personification and onomatopoeic statements which enlivened the scenarios.

After reviewing the definitions of these techniques and identifying two examples of each as a class, students worked together to create their own lists.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Students made reference to a wall which reached out to support the weight of a grieving widow, fighter jets that howled like wolves deprived of meat, and mud which sought to suck the life from the soles of soldiers’ shoes.  As these examples were shared with the class we discussed why each was effective.

REVIEW: Clancy of the Undertow

11 Apr

I recently ready Christopher Currie’s Clancy of the Undertow, an Australian coming of age story that has received positive reviews online.

I purchased the novel largely because of the name.  As a play on Banjo Paterson’s ‘Clancy of the Overflow’, I was expecting a story that followed the logic of Paterson’s poem, perhaps depicting an individual who wished for an opportunity to live a different life.  As per the poem, I expected Clancy’s life to be the one that was desired.

As it turns out, only some of what I expected was delivered.  While the novel definitely dealt with desire, aspiration and reflection on the status quo, there was not always a clear delineation between what was happening to characters and what they hoped would happen to them.  I found this ‘messiness’ appealing, and definitely reflective of reality.

I also thought the text dealt sensitively with a bullying, identity, and interpersonal relationships.

The Australian Dream

8 Apr

When we think of famous Australian speeches we tend to think of Keating’s ‘Redfern Park Address’ or Rudd’s ‘Apology to Australia’s Indigenous People’.  When teaching these speeches I tend to emphasise the significance of these speeches in political and historical contexts.  I also use them as a catalyst for discussion about Australian identity, the successes of our national project, and things we still need to strive to improve.

I recently happened across a speech which I think would make a fantastic addition to a unit that focusses on rhetoric, Australian identity, and/or the relationship between Aboriginal people and the Australian nation.  This speech was presented by Stan Grant as his contribution to a 2015 IQ2 debate.  The topic for this debate was: Racism is Destroying the Australian Dream.

I think this is a speech my students need to hear.  It is personal, it is passionate, it acknowledges the past and advocates for a better future.  I am keen to find a way to integrate this speech into some of my units this year and beyond.

‘Living With the Enemy’

6 Jan

I recently viewed episode 3 of the SBS show Living with the Enemy.  The premise of the series is to have individuals engage with those who have ideologically disparate perspectives from their own.  The episode that I viewed focused on immigration, placing a Sudanese Australian and an Australian with right-wing political views together for a ten-day period.

I think this series (or select episodes of it) would be an interesting text to show to a Year 11 Standard English class as it would help them to understand the terminology and subject matter relevant to Go Back to Where You Came From.

I also think it would be an interesting text to show to a Year 9 or 10 class, perhaps as part of a bigger unit about the migrant experience.  Not only would it allow students to come to understand (and hopefully question) the documentary form, but it would present a real life representation of the tensions within our society.

REVIEW: Nona & Me

5 Jan

The most recent novel on my long list of ‘books to read during the school holidays’ was Nona & Me by Clare Adkins.

Nona & Me is about two girls who grew up together.  One girl is white and the other is Aboriginal.  Nonetheless, they consider themselves sisters.  Or, more accurately, did consider themselves sisters.

When Nona turns up at Rosie’s high school after the two have been separated for a number of years, Nona expects a warm welcome.  Instead, she is given the cold shoulder.  The resulting estrangement causes Rosie to reflect upon her values, community and identity.

Despite its reliance upon some stock characters and clichéd occurrences, the novel was an interesting read.  However, I am not sure if my interest derived from knowledge of the political events and personalities referenced in the text, or from the text itself.  I suspect it was a bit of both.  For these reasons, I would want to teach some of the historical background prior to commencing the novel, thus allowing students to engage with the novel as both a work of literature and a social commentary.

REVIEW: Soldier Boy

4 Jan

As part of my holiday reading binge I have also read Anthony Hill’s Soldier Boy.  This text is based on the true story of Australia’s youngest ANZAC, Jim Martin.

The text itself was interesting, charting the experiences and emotions of a boy (pretending to be a man) during war.  Also interesting were the primary sources included in the text.  However, the text often presented as a recount, making it difficult to completely immerse oneself the wartime setting or the perspectives of those mentioned in the texts.

In summary, this text would be an interesting way in to a unit on war poetry or life writing for a junior class.  However, I am not sure I would teach it as a stand alone text in another context.