My Place, by Sally Morgan, is an Australian classic. Over 600,000 copies have now been sold and should be compulsory reading for all Australians.
The book is Sally Morgan’s story of family secrets and the roots of her home.
Her early chapters feel fresh and innocent, allowing us to grow with her. About half way through, she announces she is going to ‘write a book’, capture her family story and seek the truth. The structure changes from personal memoir to serious family chronicle.
Sally Morgan shows a lively young girl, growing up, amidst the fallout of war, her father’s depression, poverty, truancy, racism. From a confused child, to a frustrated adolescent, to a mature graduate, with her mother, husband and children in tow, she takes a remarkable journey to the northern country of her uncle and her grandmother’s birthplace. In so doing she finds her people, and a deep sense of place with which she can finally identify. When she realises her Uncle Arthur is going to die, she works frantically to capture his story. This leads to her mother, and eventually her grandmother, revealing more of their own truths.
Sally Morgan sees in her dreams a group of welcoming women, only to discover her mother has had almost the same vision. The moving vision and subsequent clarity of purpose is most extraordinary. This, and other examples of dreaming, is the magic of this book, for me.
It is an amazing description of a cultural heritage and a most readable social history. Further, Sally Morgan is also an accomplished artist and presents aboriginal art in a new light.
After the discussion, our knowledgeable facilitator guides us through a concurrent art exhibition: “Who’s afraid of colour?” National Gallery Victoria (NGV) Australia. This presentation, showing until the 18th April 2017, is apparently the closest we come to a national memorial to Aboriginal women’s art in Australia.
The book, My Place, and the art event, Who’s afraid of colour? both stir a deeper shame for the wrongs of white settlement and where we are today in Australia, but also provide much insight and a greater respect for Aboriginal culture.
I booked in to the NGV book club because the places fill quickly, the learning experience is brilliant and the few hours are a highlight in my month. I hope to revisit that exhibition, allowing more time, more space, and fresh awareness to contemplate some amazing women and to explore a small piece of our place.