Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence

I was first exposed to this book in highschool English class, when I was still at a pretty low level of English, and had no clue there were even Indigenous people in Australia. I did not even really understand the concept of a rabbit proof fence, it always seemed so wild to me it had to be fictional. We read extracts (I understood maybe a word in ten), watched a scene or two of the movie, and bits of a documentary about Indigenous Australians and the tough conditions they had to live in due to systemic racism. I

It stayed with me, but how hard it had been to read compared to other book extracts we read that year, also stuck with me, so I never really looked into it more. I assumed it was beyond my level, written to be very obscure, as some nonfiction books can be.

Fast forward to this year, I’ve been living in Ireland for about 4 years and I don’t remember how it came to mind but I decided I had to read it again and see if I still found it hard.

I got it from the library and, my friends, it is so short? About 150 pages. And yet it’s one of the most impactful books I read this year.

I wanted to talk about this book, but at the same time I don’t want to do a straightforward review. I’m a white woman, living in Europe, and approaching this topic from a willing-to-learn perspective* but this is not my lived experience at all and I don’t want to be over here trying to pass a judgement on what I’ve read. Instead, let me just tell you about it (or tell you about the topic through this book).

What is Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence?

tw: colonialism, racism, prison, kidnapping, child abuse, mentions of rape

Continue reading…

ARC Review: Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar Nelson, by Tara T. Green

I’m still hoping to read more nonfiction books in 2022, so I jumped on the chance to get this one through NetGalley – the biography of a queer, Black woman who was a writer and activist from the late 1800s to the 1930s.

The Book

Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar-Nelson is about the love one Black woman had for her race, of men and women, and, finally, of herself.
Born in New Orleans in 1875 to a mother who was a former slave and a father of questionable identity, Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a pioneering woman who actively addressed racial and gender inequalities as a writer, suffragette, educator, and activist. While in her 20s, she took the national stage from New Orleans as an early Black feminist, active with the Black Club Women’s Movement. From there, she built important relationships with leaders in New York, Wilmington, DE, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. She used her fiction, drama, poetry, and journalism to give voice to immigrants, poor people, women, Black people, and Creoles of color. Despite chronic illnesses, financial instability, and other struggles, her diaries reveal the ways she put herself first for the good of her mind and body, practices that became necessary after surviving an abusive relationship with Paul Laurence Dunbar—the first of three husbands.
Tara T. Green builds on Black feminist, sexuality, historical and cultural studies to construct a biographical study that examines Dunbar-Nelson’s life as a respectable activist-a woman who navigated complex challenges associated with resisting racism and sexism, and who defined her sexual identity and sexual agency within the confines of respectability politics.

The Review

TW: rape, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, sexism, racism.

I know Netgalley insists on giving star ratings, but I find this extremely hard when it comes to a nonfiction book, especially on a subject I’m not familiar with, from sources I’ve not seen. For me, as long as it seems logically and ethically sound, and I’m learning something… Look, it’s a biography, I can’t even say I like Alice, because that isn’t the point.

Continue reading…

Introducing: the 2022 nonfiction bingo!

One of my goals for next year is to read more nonfiction. I enjoy it when I do, but I don’t normally go toward it.

I looked into a few existing bingos and challenges, and I wasn’t super happy with the prompts, which covered too many topics I am in fact not interested to read. So I decided to make my own, and because sharing is caring, here it is:

Poster with a pale orange background and some orange gradient shapes on the corners. It reads: 2022 Nonfiction Reading Bingo. 
Then a list of prompts with squares to tick off:
Earth and Space ; Indigenous culture or history ; LGBTQIA+ theme ; Black history ; About a non-Western culture, history or person ; Psychology and mental health ; famous or overlooked women ; recent publication (2021-2022).
Ok, it’s not really a bingo, more like a prompt list. You know what I mean!

Now, these topics are catered towards subjects I’m interested in personally, like non-white, non-Western history, queer stuff, mental health, feminism, and space. That said, I’m hoping some people do find it to their liking and want to join in!

I’ve created a Storygraph reading challenge that you can join as well to track your progress.

Happy reading!

Review: Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is going to be a bit different than usual, as this is nonfiction. Few months ago, I asked about recommendations on Native American… psychology, I think it was? Over on twitter. Now, this is Not It, but it was an amazing read nonetheless. I first got a paper copy from the library but it was written so tiny I just kind of gave up on it. It’s too tiring for me when I feel like I’d need a magnifying glass. Thankfully though, the audiobook is on Scribd, so I jumped on that opportunity!

The Book

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a disclaimer of sorts, I’m European. I studied US history from a non-US perspective so I may have a good grasp of the general history and Native American oppression but it’s in a very general way, and I knew little about Native American culture and ways of living before reading this book.

First, I will say it is highly accessible, the audiobook was lovely, read by the author herself. Her voice is very calm and soothing and I’ve got to admit I used this as my bedtime reading for a few weeks, as it lulled me right to sleep (this is a compliment! I was never bored, just soothed).

I don’t feel competent to evaluate the topic, in all honesty, but I think the book does its job very well in first, making you rethink scientific ways of thinking and how obtuse (often white, often male) scientists can be. As a psychology student, this is something I’m well aware of, but it was nonetheless really interesting to hear about how Kimmerer challenged that, with concrete examples.

I did learn a lot about plants (lichens are a mix of fungi and bacteria??? pecan trees all give nuts at once???) but more importantly about how Native Americans, in specifically Anishinaabe and Potawatomi people live alongside nature. I think we (Westerners) have a lot to learn in terms of respecting nature, and practicing honourable/reciprocal methods of harvesting. I grew up on a farm, and I know the good the bad and the ugly, but the idea that you could plant maize, beans and squash together on the same bit of land was never something I even HEARD of, and yet it makes absolute sense!

It also gave me a much deeper understanding of what was done to Native Americans, not just in terms of displacements and loss of land, but also what was essentially kidnapping children, and forced assimilation. I knew about most of this, of course, in a vague and academic sort of way, but I think it was important to me to learn about it from someone who IS Native American, and not from some WASP professor.

Another of Kimmerer’s focus is, of course, climate change, and capitalism’s impact on the land. I say of course, because she clearly sets out ways in which Native Americans work with the land, and this contrasts clearly with the “use all you can no matter the long term consequences” capitalist approach. She draws a grim portrait of the state of the land (and this was published 8 years ago so things surely did not get better), and I was extremely pissed to learn about Onondaga Lake, but she does not stop there. She offers ways in which everyone can help, and doesn’t want you to stop at despair, because that does nothing. In a way, I found her account truly hopeful. I think it should be required reading in agriculture and forestry schools.

I could write a whole essay about it, but I’m going to stop here. This was an amazing book, and it was truly eye-opening, and I’ve got to confess I thought I knew more than I did, so it was humbling too. And funny! Kimmerer has a way with words, and I can’t recommend the audiobook enough.

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | or listen to it on Scribd*

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission (or a free month on Scribd) for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you