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Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington
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Rabbit-Proof Fence

by Doris Pilkington

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At the risk of sounding like one of "those people," the movie was better. I saw it when it came out years ago and liked it enough to get excited when I found the book it was based on at my local library. It seemed to me that Doris Pilkington couldn't decide if she wanted to write a history of her mother's walk or if she wanted to write a fictionalized version of the true events that would allow her to, as she puts it, "call on [her] skills as writer" to fill in details probably forgotten by her mother and auntie in the decades since their trek. Manhunt by James Swanson and Devil in the White City by Erik Larson both accomplish this delicate balance between history and narrative beautifully, and that, or something like it, is what I wanted from Rabbit Proof Fence. Instead, the writing seemed choppy and awkward in places, and I was frequently jarred out of the flow of the story by Aboriginal words that I needed to flip to the back of the book to translate. Again, I have seen the use of foreign words integrated beautifully into English texts, where the author takes time to introduce words that will be used frequently, first pairing them with the English and then trusting the reader to remember those few key words or phrases. Pilkington does not take the time to do this, or in my opinion, to really take the time to tell what should be an incredible story. Instead, she takes the months-long, harrowing, and epic journey that her mother and aunties completed, and makes it feel like it took about a week and was relatively easy. The end notes that explain what happened to each of the girls is equally unsatisfying and vaguely confusing. This is one of the only books I've read where my final verdict is "just see the movie." ( )
  emking85 | Nov 7, 2014 |
I picked this book to read as it covers the subject of Aboriginal history that was a requirement of a course I am doing. It was an inspirational read and at times hard to believe that three young girls could have completed this amazing journey. Even though the 'white people' did an unthinkable thing by removing these girls from their families and homes, because they believed it was in their best interest, it was also heartwarming to see that some of the 'white people' helped these girls along their journey, because they didn't believe what the government was doing was right. Great inspirational read. ( )
  RettaRyan | Nov 4, 2014 |
This is the story of three Aboriginal half caste girls removed from their families in Western Australia by government officials who sent them 1000 miles away to a 'residential school', more like a prison than a boarding school, where they were incarcerated and expected to learn to read and write and speak English before being sent off to be servants. The author, Doris Pilkington (Aboriginal name Nugi Garimara)is the daughter of the eldest girl, Molly and she retells their story in simple, straightforward language.

Molly and the two younger girls, sisters Daisy and Gracie run away from the school within days of arriving with only the clothes on their backs and no provisions. They amazingly manage to survive using their native skills in hunting and finding clean water and later strangers who give them food and clothing. Somehow, partly due to the rain and partly to their skills at hiding they manage to evade the police and the trackers sent to find them. Molly is familiar with the rabbit proof fence that runs the length of the state and knows if she can find that then they will just need to follow it home.

Although told simply, this incredible story of tenacity and survival is powerful in portraying the devastation of white settlement on Australia's Aboriginal communities, first by depriving them of their land and the ability to feed themselves and then by allowing a paternalistic government to deprive them of their mixed race children. ( )
  cscott | Apr 18, 2014 |
Best read in conjunction with the film, this memoir fills in details of the girls' trek that are not as explicit in the screen version. What the film provides is both a dynamism lacking in the book, and a broader context for why the Australian government would separate biracial children from their families. I was particularly fascinated by the expenditures made to recover three girls; no comparable manhunt would be mounted in our era for non-criminal escapees.

It would be interesting to compare the rationales for the general removal of native children to boarding schools in different countries, particularly the covert reasoning. The film does a better job of identifying the more pernicious aims of the program. ( )
1 vote OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
The story -- three aboriginal girls who escape from a government settlement and make their way home -- is interesting and exciting. Sadly, the writing is poor; the grammar is iffy and Pilkington isn't very good at crafting the story or at working background details into the main narrative. ( )
  calmclam | Sep 5, 2012 |
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To all of my mother's and aunty's children
and their descendants for inspiration,
encouragement and determination.
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It was still very cool in the early summer morning; the fresh, clean air he breathed into his lungs felt good.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786887842, Paperback)

Following an Australian government edict in 1931, black aboriginal children and children of mixed marriages were gathered up and taken to settlements to be institutionally assimilated. In Rabbit-Proof Fence, award-wining author Doris Pilkington traces the story of her mother, Molly, one of three young girls uprooted from their community in Southwestern Australia and taken to the Moore River Native Settlement. There, Molly and her relatives Gracie and Daisy were forbidden to speak their native language, forced to abandon their heritage, and taught to be culturally white. After regular stays in solitary confinement, the three girls planned and executed a daring escape from the grim camp.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:33 -0400)

Three mixed-race Australian girls, having been taken from their Aboriginal families, escape and return home on foot, without supplies or gear, while trying to evade recapture, in an account based on a true story. Following an Australian government edict in 1931, black aboriginal children and children of mixed marriages were gathered up by whites and takes to settlements to be assimilated. In Rabbit-Proof Fence, award-winning author Doris Pilkington traces the captivating story of her mother, Molly, one of three young girls uprooted from her community in Southwestern Australia and take to the Moore River Native Settlement. At the settlement, Molly and her relatives Gracie and Daisy were forbidden to speak their native language,forced to abandon their aboriginal heritage, and taught to be culturally white. After regular stays in solitary confinement, the three girls-- scared and homesick-- planned and executed a daring escape from the grim camp, with its harsh life of padlocks,barred windows and hard cold beds. The girls headed for the nearby rabbit-proof fence that stretched over 1000 miles through the desert toward their home. Their journey lasted over a month, and they survived on everything from emus to feral cats,while narrowly avoiding the police, professional trackers, and hostile while settlers. Their story is a truly moving tale of defiance and resilience.… (more)

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