Thought Provoking Holiday Reading by Indigenous Writers

With Christmas and the new year just around the corner, now is the time to start organising your holiday reading list. Holidays are the perfect time to get stuck into a new book. As such, we’ve put together a list of 5 books by talented First Nations writers. These incredible stories and poems are thought provoking, giving insight into Indigenous experiences through sharing unique knowledge and wisdom.

Sand Talk

Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta. Courtesy of Text Publishing, 2019.

Sand Talk by Apalech academic and arts critic Tyson Yunkaporta is a unique look at how Indigenous thinking and knowledge can assist today's societies (Deakin, 2021). Yunkaporta breaks down global systems from an Indigenous perspective. At the core of Sand Talk is a deep respect for Indigenous knowledge and thinking. A key principle within Indigenous knowledge systems is looking back and learning from the past, which can be seen clearly through Dreaming stories that have passed down through generations for thousands of years. It is this knowledge, thinking and methods of communication that Yunkaporta says is lacking from today’s societies, including Australia. Sand Talk invites the world to incorporate these methods into non-Indigenous thinking and systems, so that we can all benefit from the wisdom of this ancient culture (Readings, 2021).

Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari

Traditional Healers of Central Australia: Ngangkari by Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council Aboriginal Corporation. Courtesy of Magabala Books, 2013.

This beautiful book features unique stories from Ngangkari, who are senior Aboriginal people authorised to speak publicly about Anangu cultural practices. The Anangu are the traditional owners of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and surrounding area in Central Australia. The practice of traditional healing is still an important part of contemporary Aboriginal society. A number Ngangkari employed at the NPY Women’s Council deliver traditional healing treatments to people in more than 25 communities throughout SA, WA and the NT. Their work is respected and they work collaboratively with health professionals in this region. This incredible book shares the Ngangkari’s precious traditional knowledge and stories in their own words (Deakin, 2021).

Terra Nullius

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman. Courtesy of Stella Shortlist, 2018.

Terra Nullius by Noongar writer Claire Coleman is a powerful piece of fiction that tells the story of a dystopian Australia. As the novel begins, the reader is given the impression that it is set in the past during the invasion of the British (Booktopia, 2021). The natives (as they are called in the novel) are subjected to slavery, starved, beaten and forced to become ‘educated’ and ‘civilised.’ This story is disturbingly familiar and yet not everything is as it seems, you will discover a twist. Through Terra Nullius, Coleman has used speculative fiction as a political tool. She sends a powerful message about the impact of invasion and colonisation on First Nations people (The Guardian, 2017).

Inside My Mother

Inside My Mother by Ali Cobby Eckermann. Courtesy of Giramondo Publishing, 2021.

Inside My Mother is a collection of moving poems by Yankunytjatjara / Kokatha woman Ali Cobby Eckermann. Through these poems, she explores the trauma and distance created between generations when Aboriginal children are taken from their families. Eckermann was taken from her mother as a baby just as her mother had been, and in turn Eckermann also had to give her own child up for adoption. Through her poems, she traces this intergenerational trauma, and the sadness, yearning and mistrust it can bring. Yet the poems are not just full of sadness, they also speak of hope for the future through the reunion of mother and child (Giramondo Publishing, 2021).

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss. Courtesy of Goodreads, 2021.

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is a captivating story of love, loss and belonging by Wiradjuri author, poet, cultural activist and social commentator, Anita Heiss. Set in 1852, the novel begins in Gundagai, where in a freak flood event the Murrumbidgee River surges through the town, leaving death and destruction in its wake (Anita Heiss, 2021). Wagadhanny, an enslaved housemaid is lucky and survives the disaster. Unfortunately, she is forced to move away and badly misses her home and Country. Though alive, she is still not free and longs to set along the river of her ancestors, in search of her lost family and Country. Throughout the novel, Wiradjuri language is featured as it was forbidden for Wagadhanny to speak her mother tongue (The Guardian, 2021).

Each of these books gives insight into the past and present experiences of First Nations people, sharing their knowledge and unique ways of looking at the world. At Yarn, we are passionate about sharing the talents of First Nations creatives. Through supporting each of these authors and reading their incredible stories, we can learn so much. As such, we highly recommend you check out all of these books, or perhaps at least one during the coming holiday season.