Tag Archives: anita heiss

Friendship at Forty – my review of ‘Tiddas’ by Anita Heiss

3 Mar

tiddas coverI jumped at the chance to read Tiddas, because while I have read Anita’s memoir, Am I Black Enough for You? I had not yet read any of her women’s fiction. Anita, a proud Wiradjuri woman, has created a whole new genre in fiction — Koori chick-lit. Her novels are about smart, urban, Aboriginal women who like to shop, but are also socially aware and deeply rooted in their culture.

With Tiddas, she departs from her four previous novels about footloose singles by introducing us to a group of women on the cusp of forty. The title of the book means ‘friends’ and the story revolves around five tiddas who grew up together in Mudgee, but have found their way to Brisbane.

The action in the story takes place over about a year and uses the device of a monthly book group meeting as a marker for the changing seasons and lives of the five. The nature and value of female friendship is the thematic backdrop to the way each tidda deals with the central issues in her life.

There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. Having grown up in Brisbane, I loved the setting — the river, the joggers at Kangaroo Point and the gorgeous jacarandas that feature on the cover. The tiddas, Izzy, Veronica, Xanthe, Nadine and Ellen are well-rounded and despite, or maybe because of, their faults they are all likeable and fun to be around. On one level this is a study of issues relevant to all woman of this age — sex, fertility, career and relationships. But the book also gives an insight, through the tiddas, into Aboriginal culture and politics. Izzy, for example, aspires to be Australia’s Oprah, while Xanthe is a cultural awareness trainer and Ellen a funeral celebrant. I found the tiddas’ journeys realistic — their friendship waxes, wanes and sometimes falters. As in life, not everyone gets tied up with a ‘happily ever after’.

Tiddas is a warm-hearted book, which delves gently into both personal and social issues in a way that feels intrinsic to the story. I became involved in the lives of the tiddas and read the book quickly, finishing it with a sense of having been enriched by some lively and intelligent company.

Those of you who live near Byron Bay are lucky because Anita Heiss will be in our town soon… 

I will be discussing Tiddas with Anita at the Byron Bay Library on March 14 5.30pm for 6.00 (Phone 6685 8540 to book) and she is also running a workshop on writing women’s fiction on March 15 (see www.nrwc.org.au).

You can find out more about Anita and the Byron Bay event here. 

This is my first post for the 2014 Australian Women Writers Challenge

Hanging on to the glow – three days of peace, love and words in Byron Bay

8 Aug

Well another Byron Bay Writers Festival has come and gone, but the glow lingers. Something magical happens when you get a bunch of writers and readers together. As the smart and funny David Astle said (see video) it was like we were all part of a giant Jamboree of people who cared about words and ideas. And the sun shone!

intimacy I was privileged to share a panel talking about intimacy with Mary-Lou Stephens, Graeme Simsion and Susanna Freymark. And also a panel called ‘Chick-lit, mass market am I literary enough for you?’ with Anita Heiss, Ed Chatterton, Colin Falconer and Moya Sayer-Jones. We had a lot of fun, as you’ll see on the video. The laughter at the start is for Ed Chatterton’s story about the humiliation of sitting next to Michael Robotham in the signing tent. We writers are sensitive folk.bbwf 2

I also loved hosting the Pitch Perfect Panel on Saturday morning, where five emerging writers pitched to some of the finest minds in the Australian publishing industry. I’ll eat my hat (that’s an in-joke for those who were there) if we don’t see at least one of those authors published before too long. I also enjoyed being one of the ‘Hypatia’s Hell Raisers’ in the Stella Prize Trivia night which celebrates Australian Women’s Literature. I now know that Hypatia was the first well documented female philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. I think I only answered one or two questions, but I’m sure I gave the impression it was more, which is absolutely the main thing!stella

Other highlights included Justin Heazlewood’s striptease and pole dance (see video) and hearing Denise Scott talk about her father dressing up as a clown at her sixteenth birthday party. A surprise favourite was John Elder Robison, who had fantastic photos from the seventies, when he was a roadie with Kiss and Black Sabbath. And there was so much more, but… you’ll just have to watch the video.

I am over in Fremantle next week for the Elizabeth Jolley Conference and will also be at the RWA fancy dress cocktail party on Friday. Fancy dress is not one of my strong points, but I do have a sailor hat. Hope to see you there.

 

Dark Fairy-tales – ‘The Wild Girl’ by Kate Forsyth

19 Jul

WildGirl_COVERKate Forsyth has written over twenty books for children, young adults and adults. Her latest novel, ‘The Wild Girl’ is the story of Dortchen Wild, who was the childhood sweetheart and, later, wife of Wilhelm Grimm, one of the Grimm brothers of fairytale fame. Dortchen has been credited as the source of many of the stories in the Grimm brothers’ fairytale book. Forsyth says that she was enchanted to learn that Wilhelm married one of his key storytellers, a girl who grew up next door, and that is when she decided to write Dortchen’s story.

Forsyth has blended the known facts of Dortchen’s life with fiction to produce a compelling tale. Set in Germany during the Napoleonic Wars, The Wild Girl is both a love story and an insight into a tumultuous time in history. Dortchen’s brother Rudolf is sent into Russia as part of Napoleon’s army and few return as winter catches them on their retreat.

While Dortchen is in love with Wilhelm from the moment she meets him as a girl, a happy ending is a long time coming. Dortchen’s tyrant of a father forbids her marriage to a poor scholar with no prospects. The legacy of his treatment of Dortchen lingers after his death, keeping the lovers apart.

Historical fiction is not my usual fare, and I did find the scene setting a little dense first up, but I was soon engrossed. The story is both well researched and skilfully told. Not only a story about fairytales, The Wild Girl is an epic tale of love, loss and families. Scattered with accounts of dark tales like, The Maiden with no Hands, it is no wonder that it gave the author nightmares.

It was interesting to learn how the Grimm’s fairytales evolved from a scholarly recounting to something lighter and more suitable for children. The dark and frightening original stories are echoed in Dortchen’s own life, but Wilhelm’s retelling of the story Many Bits of Fur offers her a gift — a chance to break free of her past.

Forsyth is currently undertaking a doctorate on fairytale retellings. The afterword where she talks about how she came to tell Dortchen’s story after reading a psychological study on the therapeutic uses of fairy tales to help victims of abuse is fascinating.  This complex story offers satisfaction on many levels.

 

This is my 7th review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge

Not long now until the Byron Bay Writers Festival. The pre-festival workshop program is looking very exciting. I will be running a workshop on the 29 July and will be part of a panel for ‘Nuts and Bolts’ on Thursday 1st August. On Friday 2nd August I will be on a panel called ‘One is the Loneliest Number’ with Susanna Freymark and Graeme Simsion  and will be attempting to remember everything I ever knew about Australian Women’s Literature at the Stella Trivia Night. On Saturday, I’m hosting Pitch Perfect and am on a panel with Anita Heiss, Martin (Ed) Chatterton and Colin Falconer. Phew. 

On Sunday, I rest. Hope to see you there!