Some Books You Can Read Instead Of Celebrating ‘Australia Day’

24 Jan 2022

We are still here, we have survived. I am a bookworm at heart, and keep track of all the books I read, I know when I was at an Invasion Day march on Gadigal Country two years ago, I was reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe at the time. Carrying it around in my backpack, next to my water bottle and my phone, switched off. Why would I need my phone when everything I need to feel connected to my people is right here?

Two years ago, on the 26th January, I was in the middle of an Invasion Day march, on Gadigal land. Surrounded by my First Nations siblings and non-Indigenous allies, walking in the footsteps of my ancestors: a chorus of voices, sharing breath and space and meaning. We are still here, we have survived. Because I am a bookworm at heart, and keep track of all the books I read, I know I was reading Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe at the time. Carrying it around in my backpack, next to my water bottle and my phone, switched off. Why would I need my phone when everything I need to feel connected to my people is right here?

Two years later and I haven’t left my house in months. Leading up to another Invasion Day online, where every hateful, ignorant remark is so much harder to ignore, and community feels few and far between. I turn, like I always do, to books. Books by First Nations people. I am grateful that there are, now, so many: fiction and non-fiction, adult and young adult.. To remind me that I am not alone. To read, and reread, safe in the words of First Nations authors. 

This is why I started LittleBlackDuckBooks – my Instagram for books, or ‘Bookstagram’ – a safe space on the Internet for me to share my love of reading, share stories and, sometimes, tell stories myself. We are First Storytellers, after all, and through our stories we tell our truths, open hearts and minds, and connect with other First Nations peoples. Having a space to connect with others, virtually, has sustained me over these last few years, like reading First Nations books has kept me connected to my culture, when I haven’t been able to travel to Country. 

Whatever you are seeking this January 26th, be it connection, knowledge, distraction, peace, or just something to do to avoid doom-scrolling on social media, I hope you can find it within the pages of one of these books:

Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson

An ancestral, transgenerational story of rural Australia. A fictional town divided, on the precipice of change, a change that will force the Billymil family, and their Yuwaalaraay community, to the outskirts of their Country. Guided by the Old People, the Billymil family must uncover painful truths about their town and its history and keep safe what the White people are so desperate to erase. For fans of Tara June Winch’s The Yield or Kim Scott’s Taboo

The Boy From The Mish by Gary Lonesborough

A book I want everyone to read, but especially Blak boys and young adults, finding their places in the world and within themselves. TBFTM is a tender and honest exploration of queerness, self and community acceptance and of masculinity, set on a Mish on Yuin country. This book is truly something special, presenting a much-needed opportunity for queer, Blak teens to see themselves represented.  

Swallow The Air by Tara June Winch

You’ve read The Yield by Tara June Winch, but have you read her debut book? Swallow The Air is a lyrical, poetic novella perfect to read in one sitting. On family, grief and searching for cultural and kinship connections. It is a commentary on belonging: the devastating consequences of having culture withheld from us, but the illuminating hope of reconnection. 

Lies, Damned Lies by Claire G. Coleman

A politically charged, deeply personal exposure of colonisation, and every lie, damned lie, that it tells us. From Captain Cook’s ‘landing’ at Possession Island, his ‘discovery’ and ‘circumnavigation’ of Australia, to the farce that is the 26th January 1788. Coleman provides crucial insight into why these lies prevail and how they continue to be used to justify the ‘long-con’ of invasion. Reading this book is like putting on armour, each sentence an argument against celebrating ‘Australia Day’.

Black And Blue by Veronica Gorrie

A memoir by Gunai/Kurnai ex-police officer Veronica Gorrie, detailing the racism and sexism she experienced within the police force as one of few Aboriginal officers in Australia, and her ongoing resilience after ten years of trauma inflicted upon her by her fellow police officers. This is a story that us Blackfellas are not unfamiliar with, the justice system and its failings for our people and communities. But Gorrie’s rare voice from inside the force will reignite your anger and is a cry for urgent change. 

Dear Son: Letters and Reflections from First Nations Fathers and Sons edited by Thomas Mayor

Pick up this collection. Read a single letter at a time. Read all 14 in one go. Read it by yourself. Share it with your fathers, grandfathers, Uncles, children. However you choose to, I urge you to read this anthologised book. Each of these letters dismantle notions of colonially-imposed toxic masculinity, homophobia and emotional suppression by modelling vulnerability and empathy and offering gentleness and love, from father to son and son to father. For that is how we break free. 

Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki

A non-fiction interweaving of archival records, family letters and interviews, shaped into poetry. This collection follows the lives of four generations of Noongar women, from the author to her great-grandmother, detailing their resistance, warriorship and undying love for their communities and their children. It is simultaneously evocative, revealing and accessible, perfect for anyone new to the poetry genre. 

Throat by Ellen van Neerven

This collection is ineffable, in its exploration of identity, in all of its nuances. Queer, trans nonbinary and Blak, Ellen’s poetry bears their soul to the world and is a privilege to read. It is decolonial in every sense of the word, deconstructing gender, love, language and history. Ellen shows us how we survive through love – loving ourselves and loving each other, as proudly as possible.

how to make a basket by Jazz Money

Written in interchanging Wiradjuri and English, how to make a basket presents a lyrical, tongue in cheek examination of life in the colony, living, and loving, in a Blak, queer body. It invites its reader to reconnect with their ancestors through language, caring for Country and through revolutionary self-love. A politically-charged collection and a particularly galvanising read for Invasion Day.

These are 9 books in a growing canon of incredible First Nations literature. Every year, there are more and more new releases and re-releases of backlist titles. To find more titles you can follow publishers and authors on Instagram, Bookstagram accounts like myself and @Blackfulla_Bookclub, Wiradjuri Bookstagrammer @betterin.books, and, for some excellent children’s book recommendations: teacher and educator @learning_to_ngangaanha and, most importantly, browse locally. Independent bookstores often have a section highlighting their local authors and this is where you can find First Nations books by First Nations authors from whichever Country you might be living on. However you choose, I encourage you to continue exploring First Nations literature, beyond Invasion Day. Our stories transcend controversy and pain. We exist 365 days of the year.

Back to Stories
Related posts

Blak books in the time of COVID

Connection, community and creative exploration is made difficult during a pandemic but there are many ways to support your wellness through reading and support the creatives that give life to your favourite books. Karen Wyld gives us some additional insight.

7 more things you should know about Invasion Day

Luke Pearson provides 7 more things you need to know about Invasion Day so that, you know, people can stop undermining our calls for change!

Enquire now

If you are interested in our services or have any specific questions, please send us an enquiry.