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Nona and Me by Clare Atkins

Nona and Me

by Clare Atkins

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This was an interesting exploration of implied and overt racism in a place where two cultures collide. My main beef with this novel is the invisibility of Nona. Although the cover shouts her name, she is an absent character and thus her perspective is missing. It's a bit ironic that, although this novel focuses on racism, the main characters are white and they are the ones with voices. By focussing on Rosie's conflicted emotions and guilt, it makes the narrative all about HER. I think this is a missed opportunity. ( )
  mmacd3814 | May 30, 2016 |
Told in alternating year chapters , this is the story of Rosie who grew up with her parents in a Yolongu community where she was accepted as part of Nona's family - so much so, that they called each other sisters. Fast forward from 1995 to 2007, Nona has been living in a very remote community for many years and then suddenly comes back to Rosie's school. Rosie, wanting to appear cool to her new "town" friends, disowns Nona with a comment about them never being sisters.
From here we see Rosie trying to fit in with her new boyfriend and his sister, disowning her hippy mother, and fudging the truth about her distant father who works at another community after divorcing Rosie's mother.
All this set against the backdrop of the Howard governments intervention policy and then Rudd's Sorry day.
As well as the indigenous issues raised, there are the usual underage drinking, will-I-have sex with my boyfriend, lying to parents, friendship clashes and the what-do-I-want-to-with-my-life-after-school questions.
Nice balanced and well written book. ( )
  nicsreads | Mar 24, 2016 |
Such a warm and vivid look at friendship and community. I loved it. ( )
  phoebekw | Feb 29, 2016 |
Well, this was a disappointment. By about halfway through the book I was looking for the end. Anglo-saxon Rosie narrated the story, but I think it would have been a more powerful novel had her best friend, Aboriginal Nona, had a voice, even if only for the flashbacks. After all, they were supposed to be yapas (sisters) and the book focused on racism, but Nona only had a secondary role. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jan 23, 2016 |
Thank you to Goodreads and Black Inc Books for providing this book as part of the First Reads program. This did not influence my review in any way.

In this deeply moving novel about family, community and friendship in Arnhem Land, comes the story of Rosie and Nona. Sisters, or yapas, they grew up side by side, white Australian and Aboriginal, until Nona and her family move away from their community following the death of her father. Now Nona is back and Rosie, who has neglected the Aboriginal way of life since Nona has been gone, must now balance her love for country and family with her new life in town with her friends and new boyfriend. A political decision polarizes the wider community and the time comes when Rosie has to choose between her oldest friend and her first love, between the two worlds that she inhabits.

Nona And Me is a beautifully affecting story that will make you question what you think you know about Aboriginal communities and the way they exist beside white settlement. This novel was built on its characters, particularly Rosie and her parents but also Nick and the Aboriginal community where Rosie lives, Yirrkala. Nona exists mainly in flashbacks and in stunted encounters in the present, showing the strength of their bond and their friendship over time and how it’s changed. While I found it sad that Rosie and Nona couldn’t just pick up where they left off (and we have Rosie to blame for that), I also think its realistic behaviour of a girl struggling between cultures and where she belongs. I wish she had handled it better, but the growth and development of Rosie as a person over the course of the novel is heartwarming.

Something I found most interesting in this book is its exploration of what influences and contributes to the formation of our opinions and ideas. Rosie wouldn’t have had the same connection with the Aboriginal community if she hadn’t been raised in one, and perhaps she wouldn’t have lost that connection and struggled with her identity if Nona had not left – maybe she would have struggled more. Nick’s opinions are based off a bad experience from when he lived in Sydney and from the influences of his parents. What made me sad was how he seemed to have the potential and the opportunity to learn about and embrace the Aboriginal community – I would have liked to see Rosie stand up and show him their way of life and introduce him to the world she grew up in. Rosie’s parents were also interesting characters, very entrenched in the Aboriginal communities, surprisingly intolerant of the residents of the mining town where Rosie goes to school (again, the same opportunity for teaching to the Caucasian community wasn’t embraced), but I guess this is realistic. People all over the world are entrenched in their own places with their own opinions and sometimes the only thing they have in common is they all think they’re right. The world would be a whole lot better if everyone was a bit more open-minded, but I guess that’s wishful thinking.

Nona and Me is a heartfelt coming-of-age story where you’ll cry and cringe and rejoice along with Rosie as she navigates the unstable waters of friendship and family while trying to understand the political turbulence and how it affects the people she loves. It was wonderful and I highly recommend it, particularly to other Australians. I look forward to more from Clare Atkins.
( )
  crashmyparty | Dec 10, 2014 |
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Rosie and Nona are sisters. Yapas . They are also best friends. It doesn't matter that Rosie is white and Nona is Aboriginal: their family connections tie them together for life. Born just five days apart in a remote corner of the Northern Territory, the girls are inseperable, until Nona moves away at the age of nine. By the time she returns, they're in Year 10 and things have changed. Rosie has lost interest in the community, preferring to hang out in the nearby mining town, where she goes to school with the glamorous Selena, and Selena's gorgeous older brother Nick. When a political announcement highlights divisions between the Aboriginal community and the mining town, Rosie is put in a difficult position: will she be forced to choose between her first love and her oldest friend?.… (more)

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