Monday, August 9, 2010

My Place, Sally Morgan

Touted as "The American Roots" for it's US editions, My Place by Sally Morgan is a book anyone who is curious about what the lives of Australian Aborigines, especially the women, is like today should read this book. The book is written in simple declarative sentences broken into short chapters; there is nothing difficult about this book -- until one begins contemplating the difficulties Sally, her mother and her Nan [Grandmother] had in her young years. And then the reader wonders, with Sally, why there are so many things neither mother or grandmother will talk about. Sally doesn't ask a lot of questions until she's well into high school but then she can't stop asking questions. Slowly she realizes she, a light skinned woman who does not look especially Aboriginal, actually is "black".
Only because of her insatiable curiosity does the family's story finally unfold -- rather it is dug, pulled and clawed out of the family and, at the end, areas of secrecy remain. Both mother and grandmother were taken from their mothers at early ages and soon forced to become domestics in white households. They say plainly they were treated like animals in most cases, and at the mercy of their "employers" including the men who fathered children with them -- children they never claimed.

This is not a new book. Sally has written another and is a professor now. A good many years ago I met an Aboriginal woman who is a playwright who, like Sally's mother and grandmother, had been separated from her mother at a very young age. We Americans can read Sally's story and mutter "How terrible" but, in fact, the American government had a similar policy, at least with some groups of Native Americans, until quite recently. We also might contemplate that last winter the Australian government finally issued an official apology to the Aboriginal people. The U.S. government has never done anything of the sort.

1 comment:

Kass said...

Official apologies are interesting - people unrelated to the original offense, willing to be government sanctioned 'step-children' to acknowledge the wrong.