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The Yield (2019)

by Tara June Winch

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1455144,073 (4.17)13
The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha. Knowing that he will soon die, Albert 'Poppy' Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind. August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather's death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land -- a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river. Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch's The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.… (more)
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Thank you to Harpervia for providing me with a copy of this novel for review purposes.
Let's be honest, I am truly struggling to write my thoughts down and do this book justice.







Plot:



Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Knowing that he is going to die, he is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.







Content warning: Descriptions of generational trauma, child abuse, depression. I would say this can be particularly distressing to families who have suffered from colonialism.



Review:



This story weaves three perspectives into one climatic moment.



First person perspective from Albert "Poppy" Goondiwindi as he reminisces, recording story as he knows he will pass on soon. Writing notes and a dictionary with their language so as not to be forgotten.



Third person and present day, Albert's granddaughter August, or "Auggie", comes home for the funeral. She hasn't been home in years, having moved overseas to the UK. Even though she has a sense of belonging, she comes still feels like a stranger to the place that seems unchanged.



Lastly, we have written letters and journal accounts from Reverend Ferdinand, who gives first person accounts of the horrific treatment of Indigenous people in 1915.



where is your country? — dhaganhu ngurambang The question is not really about a place on a map. When our people say Where is your country? they are asking something deeper. Who is your family? Who are you related to? Are we related? Albert Goondiwindi - The Yield



There is so much sadness in August's family. Her sister Jedda went missing years ago, and with no trace of her, there is no death certificate, no closure, no funeral. Her mother is in jail, and can't even attend her father's funeral. Further a mining company has sought to seize the land and home of August's family, the home they all grew up in. More loss caused by the white man.



As August navigates her connection to home, to family, and seeks to save what is left of it, the three stories collide in a beautiful ending.



The story touches on many types of trauma that have been inflicted on Indigenous Australian's from the colonization of Australia. Beautifully written, this was a deeply moving story that showed that regardless of the brokenness, the spirit of culture is so much stronger.



I highly recommend this book. My review truly doesn't give it any justice.














I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on The Yield. Have you read this? Tell me what you thought!


Feel free to comment below or on my 'bookstagram' at @ReadWithWine .This review was originally posted on ReadWithWine ( )
  readwithwine | Jan 18, 2021 |
"Culture has no armies, does it?"

The Yield is superb. Three separate stories take place, connected in a thousand different ways. There's August, a young woman returning to Australia in the early 21st century after several years abroad, to a past she has consciously left behind. There's her dying grandfather, some time earlier, writing a dictionary of the forgotten words of his (Indigenous) people. And there's a 19th century missionary who finds himself the only defender of those same people against an unforgiving populace.

Winch's novel has much to recommend it. (My review is 4.5 stars, but in this case I'm bumping up rather than down due to the sheer force of the novel's compassion.) First, there is her writing style: clear, focused, intrigued by the most minute details, shifting the narrative voice in unison with its characters. The subtle intricacies of the novel deserve mention too, with the concepts from Poppy's dictionary resonating through both the past and present. August still holds out some tendrils of hope for a sister who went missing when they were children; Poppy, unbeknownst to her, seeks his own answers. Reverend Greenleaf attempts to be the saviour of a culture; to August and her family in the present day, he is equally villainous as those he fought against. The Reverend's awakening to the brutality against the Wiradjuri people in the 19th century reflects through Poppy's reminiscences of his awakening to his own culture in the 20th century, which is then reflected in August's attempts to salvage a little of that in the 21st. Winch's plurality of voices also leaves open the possibility of re-interpretation. For example, I don't think Greenleaf is as bad as August does, but then I bring my own biases to the text too.

At the heart of the book, Winch seems to be asking not how do we protect the artifacts of culture (words, letters, tools, much loved homes with chintzy decor) but how we protect the culture underneath? What obligations do each of us have as individuals to our broader clan? And how do we regain what has already been lost? A novel in which one-third of the book is an old man compiling a dictionary sounds inherently dull, but these sections radiate with warmth and heartbreak. I grew up in Wiradjuri country and my eyes lit up when I saw the map on the first page, excited to return to the dusty world of my youth. Winch captures it well, true, but she is also laying bare an entire culture that had existed alongside mine, in my culture's shadow, as it were, and this poignancy imbues every page.

(On a lighter note, the fact that the Australian Winch has lived in Europe for many years, and has an international writing presence, adds a humorous tone for me in her portrayal of some of the details. While the modern-day chapters of the novel are written with descriptive verisimilitude, Winch has to think of her international audience, and thus chooses to over-define such concepts as Aussie Rules, Vegemite, and Lip Smackers. It's a smart choice, and I think it will help protect The Yield against becoming dated. But as someone who grew up in the same time and place as August, I couldn't help but chortle at the narrator in these moments!)

Well worth it. ( )
  therebelprince | Nov 15, 2020 |
This is a very satisfying book with an interesting structure. There are three narrative devices used. The modern contemporary voice of August who has returned home for her aboriginal grandfather's funeral and becomes caught up in the fight to retain their historic land. A series of letters from a Lutheran missionary who established a mission station where the aboriginal families lived and worked, provides the history of the property and people and finally the dictionary of aboriginal language written by her grandfather, in which he links each word to his own life experiences. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jul 12, 2020 |
An important book on indigenous language and experience. It confronts us with the reality of massacre, dispossession, cultural and economic fights that obstruct progress in recognition and reconciliation. It informs of us how we have not broken but damaged the indigenous people, and the strength that lies in their stories and unique intelligence about themselves and the land. Animism features strongly illustrating a deeply spiritual connection to the world around them. ( )
  aliteral | Jun 21, 2020 |
I liked this absorbing book so much, as soon as I'd finished it, I read it all over again. There is so much to discover within its pages!

The Yield is the long-awaited second novel of Wiradjuri woman Tara June Winch who transfixed the Australian literary scene with her first novel Swallow the Air in 2006 (see my review) and followed that up in 2016 with an impressive short story collection called After the Carnage (see my review). That collection had an international perspective (Winch now lives and works in France), but The Yield is unmistakeably Australian.

This is the blurb:
Knowing that he will soon die, Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind.

August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather’s death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land – a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river.
The central motif that threads all through is the missing: missing people; missing history; missing documentation; a missing dictionary, missing artefacts and other memorabilia; and a missing language. But the people who are missing are not from the Stolen Generations; they are missing because of dysfunctional modern life, which is a consequence not just of the Stolen Generations but also because of the other things that are missing in their lives: safety and protection; a secure family life; respect and fairness, and the opportunity to thrive and prosper without having to leave their community. Their stories are told through three distinctive narratives: August Gondiwindi in the present day; Reverend Greenleaf's anguished letters to the British Society of Ethnography in 1915; and Poppy Gondiwindi's missing dictionary. While the reader knows the content of the letters and the diary, August does not, which gives the novel its narrative tension because she needs that information to stave off the looming second dispossession.

Reverend Greenleaf is the German missionary who set up the Prosperous mission. Winch charts both his paternalistic ambitions, and the violence he witnesses against the Indigenous people by frontier townsfolk. Writing in 1915, he has fallen from grace, so to speak, from being a missionary whose role commands respect even from people who don't like his (paternalistic) protection of the Wiradjuri, to being an outsider himself, a victim of anti-German sentiment as an enemy alien during WW1.

Poppy's dictionary, which is his attempt to rescue his endangered language Wiradjuri, may not sound like an engaging way of storytelling. But it is, and the best way I can explain how it works is with an example. Each week in my French class, we talk about something we've done during the week, and in one of my accounts I mentioned Bunnings. 'What is Bunnings?' asked our recently arrived French teacher. 'A hardware store', someone answered. But that's not enough to explain how Bunnings is part of the cultural fabric of suburban Melbourne, like Myer is to the CBD. So we explained how it's a chain of mega-stores, about its sausage sizzles and DIY classes, and how families and DIY aficionados jostle with tradies in the aisles.

There are so many elegant examples of this expansion of the idea of a dictionary, that it's hard to choose. Poppy begins the book like this:
I was born on Ngurambang — can you hear it? — Ngu-ram-bang. If you say it right it hits the back of your mouth and you should taste blood in your words. Every person around should learn the word for country in the old language, the first language — because that is the way to all time, to time travel! You can go all the way back. (p.1)
But on page 33, we learn how to say
where is your country? — dhaganhu ngurambang The question is not really about a place on a map. When our people say Where is your country? they are asking something deeper. Who is your family? Who are you related to? Are we related? (p.34)

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/07/13/the-yield-by-tara-june-winch/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jul 12, 2019 |
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The yield in English is the reaping, the things that man can take from the land. In the language of the Wiradjuri yield is the things you give to, the movement, the space between things: baayanha. Knowing that he will soon die, Albert 'Poppy' Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. His life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River at Prosperous House, on Massacre Plains. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. He finds the words on the wind. August Gondiwindi has been living on the other side of the world for ten years when she learns of her grandfather's death. She returns home for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with all she tried to leave behind. Her homecoming is bittersweet as she confronts the love of her kin and news that Prosperous is to be repossessed by a mining company. Determined to make amends she endeavours to save their land -- a quest that leads her to the voice of her grandfather and into the past, the stories of her people, the secrets of the river. Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch's The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity.

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