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My place: Illustrated by Sally Morgan

My place: Illustrated (original 1987; edition 1989)

by Sally Morgan

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6141715,671 (3.61)65
English (16)  Danish (1)  All languages (17)
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Loved this. Thought that the last quarter of the book was not as good as the last, the retelling of the elders stories was powerful but dragged and seemed to be somewhat of a non-sequiter. ( )
  CatherineJay | Dec 30, 2015 |
Read in one afternoon, evening, and night. Just mesmerizing. I still think people should not drink if they're having trouble, and not have more kids if they can't take care of the ones they have, but I feel a bit more sympathy for what it must be like to be in desperate straits or whatever.

I highly recommend this to everyone who cares about racism, or family, or history, or slavery, not just in Australia but anywhere - universal themes that apply to American Indians and African-Americans for sure, probably also Canadian First Peoples, Tibetans, East Indians, etc. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
This is a facinating story about how we transition from being members of traditional society into the mainstream. It is a generational account of this movement. ( )
  geniemagik | Dec 5, 2013 |
Sally persists in finding the truth about her heritage. Her mother and grandmother were raised in a strongly prejudiced society that would take mixed blood babies away from their aborigine mothers and so kept secrets.
If this was a novel, I would not have rated it 4 star, because the tale drags in parts, e.g. when no progress is made, but the importance of speaking the truth makes this a worthwhile memoir. ( )
  juniperSun | Nov 6, 2013 |
3.5 Stars--
I honestly have to say that I probably never would have picked up this book if it wasn't sent to me by a friend. Mostly because I never knew it existed, but that's beside the point, hehe. I'm not really a memoir reader, but I am trying to read more non-fiction this year, so this blended perfectly with this goal.

My Place tells the story of how Sally Morgan discovered who she is. In a way, it was a very touching story, and I'm glad that I read it. I've never really given much thought to my own family history when it comes to race, but then race has never been something that I think about. I register different skin tones, yes, but I can't say that I label or judge people because of them. It's just not how I think. Which is why racism makes me so angry. I just don't understand the way that certain people feel that they are better than others because of the color of their skin.

Sally's story is a quest to find out about her racial origins. To make a long story short, she discovers that she is Aboriginal, and then sets about learning the stories of her family members to find out why this is such a shameful secret that must be hidden at all costs - even to the point of blatantly lying.

To be perfectly honest, I know next to nothing about Australian history, and still less about Aboriginal Australian history. This book has definitely piqued my interest, so I think that I'll be reading other books about this so that I can get a fuller picture. Morgan describes a sort of bonded-slavery as being the main interaction between "whitefellas" and "blackfellas" (Aboriginals). White people essentially forced Aboriginal people into servitude, took away their children if they were of mixed-blood ("half-caste") and looked white, and generally made their lives exceptionally difficult according to how dark their skin is. I say that this is a sort of bonded-slavery because even though it is technically slavery, with laws prohibiting Aboriginals travelling without a permit, etc, it's more like indentured servitude, as there were wages involved - even though they weren't paid most of the time. Not to mention that Aboriginals could be let go and hired into service elsewhere. They were owned, in a way, but more in terms of lack of options than actual slave ownership.

Not that this makes it any better. Slavery and racism and bigotry and ignorance are slavery and racism and bigotry and ignorance. The forms that they take matter not one bit. Aboriginal people were taken from their homes, and forced to work for nothing or next to nothing for white people who held everything over their heads at unattainable heights. It was an accomplishment just to survive. And this, still going on in the early parts of the 20th century. It's shameful.

It's also shameful that people should be made to feel so ashamed of their heritage and history that they would deny it. It's understandable that people would want to deny what they are to avoid prejudice and hatred, but it's incredibly sad that the very things that define us are the things that we wish to be rid of in order to be accepted.

I feel like it is an important book, and that it brings awareness to something that people outside of Australia are probably completely oblivious to, and people inside Australia would likely wish to forget. Just as people in the US would like to forget that we were slave-owners once too. I don't understand this seemingly universal drive for a group of people to wish to have dominance over other groups of people. I refuse to believe that this is an ingrained trait.

Anyway, I wish that I could actually give this book a higher rating. I do feel like it is important, but I wish that it was a little more accessible. It feels like it was written with native Australians in mind - people who would already know what a goanna is, and what a didgeridoo is, etc. Things are mentioned but not explained, so there's a lot that has to be looked up in order to get the full story. It feels like it was written for people who already have an academic knowledge of Australia's Aboriginal history, but now just need a few more details to really understand. In a way, this book gives them that, but not with the depth that it could have.

It is written in very simple and straightforward language, which, to me, depersonalizes the story a bit too much. Granted, this should be a story in which you could fit yourself in there and think "This could have happened to anyone... this could have happened to ME and MY family," but really it is a personal story about Sally's family, and the way it was written was too detached to really allow the reader in. The story told us what happened ("And then I was beaten with a whip.") but in a very clinical fashion which makes it hard to feel for someone who doesn't seem to be upset themselves. After telling her mother's story, Sally mentions that she felt close to her mother, but that was all there was. Just that mention. Sally mentions later that there are "depths to {the story} that she knows that she will never plumb." Which is true, but telling us that there are depths isn't the same as communicating them. I would have liked to feel like I was being told the story directly, not a fact-based reproduction of it. I know that this story is a memoir, and that the information in it relies on the information that the contributors are willing or able to share. But it just seems to me that there was a lack of personalization that would have really brought the story together and made it something amazing.

Also there were quite a few typos and errors in the text, which was distracting. One in particular really threw me for a loop - Sally's mother is relaying the story of her father's death, and how she was concerned about his afterlife whereabouts, so she asked "Gold" to show her where he was. I racked my brains for about a minute, trying to think of who Gold was, when it dawned on me that it was supposed to be "God".

And that brings me to my next point, which is that there is a "spiritual realism" aspect to parts of the book. Several of the family members are stated to have seen visions, both of the future and of God and angels, and to have seen signs and omens and the like. I feel like this part of the story wasn't very believable. It was relayed as fact, as was everything else, but I'm a natural skeptic, so I found it hard to believe in visions of angels and the like. I'm not saying that they didn't happen - I don't know what they saw or didn't see - I just would have liked for there to have been a little explanation as to the spiritual nature of Aboriginal people. Parts struck me as being almost voodooish in nature (and this is NOT meant in the "EVIL BLACK MAGIC" way, but as the spiritual religious way), but also mixed in with Christianity in a way that just... I don't know. It didn't feel right for some reason. Like it was tacked on to show how they just knew things would work out, but the history for these feelings wasn't prsented to make it believeable to me. Again, I'm not saying that it didn't happen, because I can't know that. People's faith and spiritualism takes all different shapes and forms, and that's perfectly fine by me. I just wish that there was a basis - a tradition - that explained that Aboriginal people are more in tune with this part of life than other people. This is barely hinted at, but not in the way that I'd like to be able to appreciate these sections.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. It was a quick read, and has started an interest in Australian history that I wouldn't have had before. I will definitely look into more books in the future to see if I can get a fuller understanding of the way life was there, and how it is now. I appreciate having read this book, at having my horizons widened.

Thanks for sharing this book with me, Jon! :) ( )
  TheBecks | Apr 1, 2013 |
Another book I’m glad I picked up thanks to a fellow Viner. This is a non-fiction account of the life of Aboriginal professor, artist and author Sally Morgan. The book goes through her memories of childhood dealing with her sometimes abusive father, the struggles of her mother and grandmother trying to provide for Sally and her siblings, and her discovery of her Aboriginal culture.

Prior to this book I had no idea of the Aboriginal culture or Austrialia’s history for that matter. This was a good introduction into the topic. Morgan’s book not only touches on Morgan’s own personal story and struggle, but also that of her grandmother and her great uncle helping to give a well rounded view of the cultural and generational change towards national acceptance.

Morgan has an honest way of writing, which makes it almost seem like she is just chatting with you and telling you her story of discovery. There were moments that I was cracking up at her smartassness and other moments that were genuinely touching. By the end of the book I was sobbing uncontrollably because Morgan’s grandmother reminded me of my own grandmother who passed away. It made me miss her and wonder what stories I may have missed from her.
( )
  Jaguar897 | Mar 31, 2013 |
Sally Morgan grew up in Perth, Australia with her mother, grandmother and her alcoholic father, who clearly was suffering severe PTSD, and was frequently hospitalized. Although her early life was difficult and chaotic, it was also at times magical, and I thoroughly enjoyed the portion of the book describing her early childhood. The book failed to engage me when it began to focus on the author's quest for her racial and ethnic roots.

Her grandmother was one of the "lost generation" of aboriginal children--those children of mixed race who were removed from their homes and mothers to be raised by the government or by missionaries. During [[Morgan's]] childhood, her grandmother's background was a deep, dark secret. She knew her grandmother looked "different" and that she herself was darker than some of her classmates, but she was told that this was because they were from India. I find it incredible that at that time (the 1960's), in that place (Western Australia), [[Morgan]], an extremely intelligent teenager, would accept this fiction. When, at university age, she discovered the truth, she began to search for her roots and to try to reconnect with her grandmother's aboriginal relatives. She also wanted to find out the identity of her grandmother's father, and her mother's father.

In this part of the memoir, [[Morgan]]'s prose loses its sparkle and becomes dull. It also feels unfocused, as here she is working on her degree, then here she is taking a trip to the outback, then marrying and babies and research all together in very little order. It wasn't necessarily confusing--it just felt scattered, and whatever analysis there was was thin. And while the book includes a little factual/historical information, it is not organized or put in context, so the book is not valuable as a history. I wouldn't call this a "bad" book, but I hope that there somewhere exists a better book on this subject.

2 stars

(By the way, [[Morgan]] is now a well-respected aboriginal artist. I heard of her through her artwork, rather than because of this book, which evidently is required reading in some Australian schools). ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 18, 2012 |
Sally Morgan has written a poignant memoir about her discovery and exploration of her family’s aboriginal Australian roots.

Morgan describes her childhood in a working-class family in Perth, the largest city on the southwest coast of Australia. Her father had fought and been captured by the Germans in World War II and was fighting a losing battle with what we would now probably call post traumatic stress disorder, made worse by his drinking. Morgan was still in grade school when he died. Her mother and Nan, the grandmother who lived with them, decided to keep the children from knowing that they were aborigines. They had justified fears they would be declared unfit and the children would be taken away. Because of white men in their lineage, only the grandmother was dark enough to be easily identified as a “blackfellow.”

Read more on my blog: me, you and books
  mdbrady | Feb 13, 2012 |
I think this book had the potential to be really great...but it is just terrible writing. It should have been interesting; there is a very limited amount of writing about or by Aborigines. I wanted to know how Sally finally found out about and embraced her Aboriginal heritage, and the parts where she repeats the tales of her mother, uncle, and grandmother are much better. However, she just takes way to long to tell her story and there are plenty of anecdotes that are just too long and off-topic. I read this for a class on Postcolonialism. It worked for our section on Australian literature, but it was just terribly written. What happened to children with even a portion of Aboriginal blood was terrible, and I'm glad the Australian government is finally offering them some kind of assistance. Morgan did well with the older generation's story, and it immensely helped in sharing the history of the Aborigines. ( )
  VivalaErin | Jul 10, 2010 |
A very good book. Interesting to see the personal journey the author went on to find her identity and heritage. Her mother and grandmother were great characters who had such a tough life. Good stuff. ( )
  MarkKeeffe | Jul 4, 2010 |
Well written for a first time author.

A good look at Australian History from a very personal and personable viewpoint. Covers brutal topics without assaulting the reader.

Should be compulsory reading in Australian schools - Australian History ( )
1 vote coffeebookperfect | Jan 4, 2009 |
This 1980’s memoir of a mixed race Aboriginal family in Australia is no literary masterpiece, but it provides valuable insight into the struggles of Aboriginals in the first half of the 20th century. In its day, it was perhaps eye-opening for many white Australians and others around the world. The first half of the book centers on the early life of a young girl who is surprisingly oblivious to her own racial identity. This part is rather undistinguished, not so different from many stories of poverty and domestic difficulties, and not as well told, however it is worth sticking with it until Morgan eventually begins investigating her family history. As she painstakingly pulls the truth from her mother and grandmother, as well as other relatives, the reader is drawn to these people and their often heartbreaking struggles in a society that treats them with sometimes astonishing cruelty. This book would be more valuable to those who know little on a subject which has now been more widely disseminated. ( )
1 vote kambrogi | Mar 6, 2008 |
This is an autobiography, sometimes referred to as the Australian "Roots", which features narratives from three generations of the author's Australian aboriginal family. Although I found some of the author's tale of growing up a bit tedious at times, it is important because it is the story of her discovery of her family origins, and sets up the reader for the rest of the narratives (great uncle, mother, grandmother). I found these later narratives riveting, heart-breaking and ultimately very moving. 1/08

note: I think what I found tedious in the first part of the book was the author's use of great gobs of dialog. ( )
  avaland | Jan 27, 2008 |
Sally Morgan tells the stories of herself, her mother, her grandmother and her great uncle, as she discovers what being Aboriginal means for her and her family. We read this book for school, I didn't really enjoy it. ( )
  Amzzz | Aug 9, 2007 |
(Bought in Australia) An Australian girl doesn't realize she's black and aborigine till she's a teenager. Pretty good - she tries to discover her tribal relatives. ( )
  bobbieharv | Mar 19, 2007 |
A great book that should be read by all Australians.
  flexnib | Nov 25, 2005 |
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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0949206318, 0949206776

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