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Women's History Month: Anita Heiss

My name is Anita Heiss.

I’m a Wiradjuri woman, born and bred in Sydney with a passion for New York. I surround myself with strong, capable, intelligent, sassy women and they are reflected in my commercial women’s novels. I proudly support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the National Year of Reading, and I aspire to having my own chat show one day. My memoir Am I Black Enough For You? will be on the shelves nationally on April 1.

I am who I am because of some of the deadly women writers who have influenced by creative journey, below are just a few of them…


1. Oodgeroo Noonuccal: As the first Aboriginal person to publish a collection of poetry back in 1964, Oodgeroo Noonuccal and her work We Are Going remain an influence on me today. Her ‘Aboriginal Charter of Rights’ is still a reminder of what needs to be done in Australia in terms of human rights for First Nations people here, and her words are an ongoing motivational force for me to continue to write, in whatever genre.

2. Rosie Scott: I first met Rosie back in 1998 and she has been (knowingly or otherwise) a mentor of mine ever since. Her novels Glory Days, Movie Dreams and Faith Singer are favourites of mine because they are about the human condition in all its painful truth. Rosie’s work through Sydney PEN (and with Thomas Keneally) that gave a voice to detained asylum seekers in the anthology Writers in Detention is to be applauded, and serves to remind us as writers of the freedoms we enjoy here in Australia, freedoms that come with responsibilities. I admire Rosie for marrying her activism with her writing, which is why she also won the Sydney PEN Award.

3. Libby Gleeson: It was because of Libby’s recommendation and faith in me that I ended up writing my first novel, Who Am I? the diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937 as part of the Scholastic My Story series. I will always remain indebted to her for reading my first draft and offering advice. Without her support that book would never have happened, the story of the Stolen Generations would not be taught in classrooms around Australia today, and I probably wouldn’t actually be writing still today.

4. Linda Jaivin: Although not a children’s writer, Linda also read the first draft of Who Am I? for me and gave me fantastic advice about the use of senses in my work. I’ve never forgotten her help back then. But more importantly, what I have learned from Linda’s own writing is the ability to engage readers on serious, social-justice issues with humour, while also educating them and making them see their own prejudice. Her novel The Infernal Optimist does that brilliantly, using the humorous voice and phraseology of Zeke Togan and his life in Villawood detention centre to showcase the appalling reality of life for asylum seekers behind the wire.

5. Jackie Huggins: I remember exactly where I was sitting when I read Jackie’s collection of writings in Sister Girl (UQP). And I will never forget how grateful I was for her combining her ten years of writings, and her real life experiences, roles and responsibilities as an Indigenous woman of profile and power in Australia, and publishing her world in a book for me to read. Well, not just me, but women like me, and you for that matter. Jackie is one of the most dignified women I have ever met, and her ability to get serious messages across to mass audiences is what sets her apart from many others with a similar mission. It is Jackie’s style of writing, and approach that I [hope] can be found in some of my own work, because we share a common goal in documenting Aboriginal women’s stories. In Sister Girl Jackie Huggins says of writing history,

I wanted to write about the silent history of Aboriginal women that has been the experience of so many of my mother’s and grandmother’s generation. Although we learnt about the pioneering efforts of mostly European males, little was recorded about the ‘backbone’ of the pastoral industry, the Aboriginal men and women who toiled as stockmen and domestic servants… The stories deserve recognition and need to be rescued, recorded and shared.
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  • (no subject)

    Blogging has had to fade into the background recently. First I didn't have time to read blog posts and then I didn't have time to write them. Now you…

  • (no subject)

    Right now, I spend between 30 minutes and 180 minute a day, every day, answering questions, listening, chatting about subjects of concern. Mostly…

  • Just thinking

    I wrote this before I did all my travels. Given it's IWD today, it's not a bad time for pondering from my (very female) perspective. In case someone…