Book review: Am I Black Enough for You? By Anita Heiss
It all started with a love affair.
A deep affection between James and Amy. Their courtship, which spanned 1923 through to their marriage in 1927, was largely carried out over paper. Letters. Many letters. Letters which their granddaughter Anita Heiss still has to this day;
‘Every single letter leaves me misty-eyed at the amount of love and kindness and caring on the fragile yellowed papers.’
These letters are the source of the strength, determination and positivity which exudes in bucket loads from Heiss’ memoir Am I Black Enough For You? Her strength has been ignited by what Heiss knows about her grandmother’s life; removed from her family in Nyngan, living at Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls, then finally released from ‘her life of servitude’ in 1927.
‘It is from this knowledge of the incredibly hard life my grandmother lived […] that I draw my strength, and from where stems my sense of commitment and obligation to do what I do in life.’
Employing a chatty, personal tone Heiss takes us through her life – her love of chocolate, her family and ultimately how her voice, as a proud Wiradjuri woman, has developed to bring her to where she is today. At the very heart, as the title would suggest, is the notion of identity. Heiss uses this book to show her identity. She deploys her wry sense of humour to deflect stereotypical notions of her nation’s people, and Indigenous Australians generally. On this point, identity, Anita also discusses her series of ‘choc-lit’ novels in her intriguing chapter entitled ‘On Being Koori Bradshaw’. Designed to ‘reach audiences that weren’t previously engaging with Aboriginal Australia in any format’ she writes about urban, capable and savvy Aboriginal women and their ups and downs as they travel through life.
Heiss’ drive and passion is palpable throughout the pages of her book. From her university education to where she is today Heiss has set herself on the path of education, of support to further the advancement of her people, and to break down stereotypical notions of identity.
Anita’s ‘can do’ approach to the many projects, workshops, lectures and academic studies she has undertaken is simultaneously empowering and exhausting. This is one hard-working lady!
Am I Black Enough for You? is an enlightening read. At times funny, at times confronting, and ultimately inspirational.
‘do what you really want, what your heart wants you to do’
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Have you read Am I Black Enough for You? What did you think?