This is the first book I’ve read by Tony Birch and it won’t be the last.
Odette Brown is a woman who lives in shanty town in outback rural Australia in the early sixties. She looks after her grand-daughter Sissy keeping them both from the attention of the welfare authorities who systematically remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families supposedly for their own good.
When Sissy turns thirteen, she comes under the notice of new policeman in town who zealously takes on the job of being the legal custodian all aboriginal children in the district. Odette leaves with her granddaughter and heads to the city with the policeman in hot pursuit.
This book, although a fictional story gives us a sense of the Aboriginal experience, one which was never taught in Australians schools or talked about in the daily newspapers.
“For years, Aboriginal people living on the mission were barred from entering town, except on Saturday mornings between eight and noon, when they were permitted to shop at the company store in the main street. “
It’s well-paced and filled with tension. It’s also a story of resilience, love, courage and hope as well as connection to and the importance of family. In the words of the author, “What I do hope for with this novel, is that the love and bravery of the tenacity and love within the hearts of those who suffered the theft of their own blood.”
It’s an easy to read and well-written book which touches on important issues of a nasty era.