I don’t tend to be very popular in America and I don’t expect to be in Australia when it comes to my perspectives on their white inhabitants. In my mind, only Native American’s are Americans and only Aboriginals are Australians (though I know that they would both dislike those terms given to their countries by dead white men) everyone else is a European in my mind. Sometimes when I have been in Australia I have honestly forgotten I am not in England because there are similarities all around me, the white Australian culture really isn’t that different. What this book did was show me the Australia that I have been longing to find. The first book I have ever read by an Aboriginal and, after being here for five months, the first book I have even SEEN that was written by one. It was a very special experience for me.
Monty is an incredible man, one who acknowledges how much pain and suffering his people have gone through but knows all too well that anger is not the way to end it. The opening pages, where he details his brothers and sister killing themselves and his nephew who died in a car accident, are the most powerful pages I have ever read. To such an extent that I had to put the book down for a moment before I could continue. He is so open and frank about how his family has suffered, how white Australians simply cannot (or will not) see how they continue to hurt the Aboriginal people. He never flinches from being honest, baring his spirit in a truly remarkable way, yet there is not an ounce of anger in this book. He only speaks with hope and he finds this hope in the children he does his dances for.
Monty describes his life, how he had to find a way to be both a “blackfulla” and think like a “whitefulla” when necessary. He shows how he had to do this in order to survive, finding the compromise between the two cultures. The difficulties he faced in life are so difficult for a person like me to empathize with but he is excellent at presenting his ideas in a way that no person can turn their head away from. He manages to explain his Aboriginal culture in a way that a white Western person can just about grasp, a tall order for any Aboriginal, never mind writing it down so it can be distributed to others. His accounts of his visits to schools are all amazing, from the heartwarming children who think that he is the most amazing person they’ve ever met, to those who already have prejudice in their hearts. Monty shows us how the children are the way to the future, that he feels hope for his people when he teaches the younger generation.
Monty also faces the problems and stereotypes that most people associate with the Aboriginals. He is so patient but points out again and again the inability for those in power to simply sit down and talk and understand the black way of thinking. He talks bluntly about the problems that still continue for his nieces and nephews, a fact that I still find hard to believe but I don’t doubt that he’s telling the truth. When you’ve never witnessed racism your whole life, it’s easy to think that it simply went away like a bad dream. Monty asks that we don’t expect everything to change suddenly, Aboriginals can’t just get up and go back to living the way they used to after so many years of oppression and pain, but that we try to make things better in our own way.
Another point that I found particularly enjoyable about this book was Monty manages to travel to England, Ireland and Italy, places I have visited and deeply enjoyed. He finds such a correlation between the the Irish and Aboriginals that it made me shift uncomfortably in my seat (after all, are their ANY cultures England didn’t try to suppress and destroy?). He also manages to make some amazing comparisons between Australia and Italy, the one about Ares Rock and the Sistine chapel being particularly apt.
You may have noticed by now that I am reviewing this book as though I know Monty personally rather than simply reading about two hundred pages of a book he wrote ten years ago. That’s because his style of writing is so open that you cannot help but love him, feel for him and care for him. His dream becomes your dream, even if you knew next to nothing about Aboriginals before you picked up his book (guilty as charged). It is rare for me to read a book and think “Yes, this book is important, people need to read it” but this is certainly one of those books. I will soon be buying a copy to put aside for my children to read when I have them because this book has the single most important message for the next generation to learn: We are all different and it’s only by sitting down and talking together that we can realise how amazing and wonderful that fact is.