Tag Archives: Australian Literature

‘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.

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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.

 

Distinctively Visual Related Texts

24 Jan

Below is a list of possible related material for the Standard English Module A elective ‘Distinctively Visual’.

  1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (novel)
  2. And of Clay We Are Created‘ by Isabel Allende (short story)
  3. Approved For Adoption directed by Laurent Boileau & Jung Henin (film)
  4. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (play)
  5. Because who is perfect?‘ (advertisement)
  6. Ernest and Celestine directed by Benjamin Renner (film)
  7. Grave of the Fireflies (film)
  8. ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire (poem)
  9. Lion directed by Garth Davis (film)
  10. Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (picture book)
  11. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (novel)
  12. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (film or graphic novel)
  13. Scattered Lives by Sally McKenzie (play)
  14. Terrible Things by Eve Bunting (picture book)
  15. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  16. The Boat by Nam Le (adapted as an SBS interactive) (interactive graphic novel)
  17. The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (picture book)
  18. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (novel)
  19. The Rabbits by Shaun Tan (picture book)
  20. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by Ben Stiller (film)
  21. To This Day by Shane Koyczan (graphic novel or spoken word poem).

Hello Stranger

25 Oct

Hello Stranger is an ABC documentary series which seeks to meet a range of individuals and then follow one story home.

I recently watched the Hello Stranger episode entitled ‘Straight Outta Footscray‘ about Bangs, a rapper who hails from South Sudan and has achieved internet fame for a much derided song entitled ‘Take U to Da Movies’.  The episode allows responders to learn about Bangs, his hopes and his dreams.

I think I want to play the ‘Take U to Da Movies‘ clip to my students first, asking them to offer their thoughts about the clip and the man who stars in it.  Then, I want to show them the short documentary, asking them at the end if their perspectives have changed and why.

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’.

‘Decadence’

25 May

I recently stumbled upon Ed Carlyon’s Spoken Word poem ‘Decadence’, and I think it would be a great addition to a unit about poetic representations of gender.  I think it would be a particularly interesting companion text to Harry Baker’s poem ‘Real Men‘.

Carlyon’s poem begins with the confronting observation that he has “seen more men binge drink than [he’s]…  seen cry and that don’t make sense.” In this opening statement, Carlyon powerfully links drinking culture to a peculiarly Australian masculinity.  As he continues, a distinct binary becomes apparent, with certain behaviours implicitly deemed manly and others as weak.  The depth of emotion conveyed in this poem is impressive and capable of sparking interesting discussion amongst students.

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: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

20 Apr

I had high hopes for Melissa Kiel’s novel The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl; teenage angst, unrequited love, and the imminent demise of the world – what is not to love?

Despite my high hopes, I found that the novel began quite slowly.  I felt the introduction to the protagonist, Alba, was a bit clunky and the comic book/superhero allusions did not really make sense or seem relevant at the start of the text.

Initially, I also found the significant gap between what Alba could perceive and understand about her social world, on the one hand, and what the reader appreciated, on the other to be quite frustrating.  As the novel progressed, it became apparent that the closure of the gap would be the climax of the novel.

I did, however, enjoy the portrait of small town life provided by Kiel.  I also enjoyed her depictions of the people who flocked to Eden Valley in anticipation of the end of the world.

I also think that a number of my students would quite enjoy the adolescent angst, confusion, and indecision featured in later stages of this text.

Youth Week

16 Apr

In celebration of Youth Week, SBS recently featured a selection of short films (1 minute in length) about the experiences of young people in Australia.

One film, entitled ‘Stephanie’s Film‘, showcases the experience of a young Muslim girl as she strives to overcome negative comments and become the first Australian ballerina to wear a hijab while dancing professionally.  The juxtaposition between the ugly negatively of the comments and the beauty of her dancing is striking.

Another film, entitled ‘Taz’s Film‘ offers insights into the experiences and emotions of an Indigenous brotherboy as he discusses his struggle with gender identity.  Here, the images of him boxing provide a powerful metaphor for both his inner turmoil and strength.

These short films could be used as part of units exploring Australian literature and experience, identity, youth experiences, and/or autobiography.  They could also be utilised in an introduction to the Year 12 Standard English module on ‘Distinctive Voices’ to help students to understand the ways in which experience and representation shapes voice and the messages conveyed by distinctive voices.