50 great reads from First Nations writers and Australian writers of colour in 2021

To acknowledge the work of culturally diverse Australian writers, we have compiled this second list of 50 great reads by First Nations writers and Australian writers of colour published in 2021! The following books are displayed in no particular order and include fiction, biography, poetry, children’s novels, history and more.

Please note that as ever, this is not a complete list of every such read published this year. You can find more books from local authors published in 2021 here.

1. Another Day in the Colony by Chelsea Watego
A ground-breaking collection of essays - and a call to arms - that exposes the ongoing colonial violence experienced by First Nations people.

2. How to Make a Basket by Jazz Money
Writing in both Wiradjuri and English language, Money explores how places and bodies hold memories, and the ways our ancestors walk with us, speak through us and wait for us. These poems attempt to remember, revision and re-voice history. Read our review here.

3. Country: Future Fire, Future Farming by Bill Gammage & Bruce Pascoe
For millennia, First Nations peoples harvested this continent in various ways that can offer contemporary environmental and economic solutions. This book highlights the consequences of ignoring this deep history and living in unsustainable ways.

4. After Story by Larissa Behrendt
Ambitious and engrossing, this novel celebrates the extraordinary power of words and the quiet spaces between. We can be ready to listen, but are we ready to hear? Read our review here.

5. Dear Son: Letters and Reflections from First Nations Fathers and Sons edited by Thomas Mayor
Along with his own vivid and poignant prose and poetry, author and editor Thomas Mayor invites 12 contributors to write a letter to their son, father or nephew, bringing together a range of perspectives that offers the greatest celebration of First Nations manhood.

6. Dark as Last Night by Tony Birch
These exceptional short stories capture the importance of human connection at pivotal moments in our lives, whether those occur because of the loss of a loved one or the uncertainties of childhood. Read our review here.

7. Lies, Damned Lies: A Personal Exploration of the Impact of Colonisation by Claire G. Coleman
Beautifully written, this literary work blends the personal with the political, offering readers an insight into the stark reality of the ongoing trauma of Australia’s violent colonisation. Read our review here.

8. Black and Blue by Veronica Gorrie
With a great gift for storytelling and a wicked sense of humour, Gorrie frankly and movingly explores the impact of racism on her family and her life, the impact of intergenerational trauma resulting from cultural dispossession, and the inevitable difficulties of making her way as an Aboriginal woman in the white-and-male-dominated workplace of the police force.

9. Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: River of Dreams by Anita Heiss
Set on timeless Wiradyuri country, where the life-giving waters of the rivers can make or break dreams, and based on devastating true events, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is an epic story of love, loss and belonging. Read our review here.

10. Flock: First Nations Stories Then and Now edited by Ellen van Neerven
This wide-ranging and captivating anthology showcases both the power of First Nations writing and the satisfaction of a good short story. Curated by award-winning author Ellen van Neerven, Flock roams the landscape of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling, bringing together voices from across the generations.

11. Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki
This seminal collection of poetry, prose and historical colonial archives tells First Nations truths of unending love for children - those that were present, those taken, those hidden and those that ultimately stood in the light.

12. Walking in Gagudju Country by Diane Lucas, Ben Tyler, and Emma Long
Walk with us through one of the Top End’s magnificent monsoon forests, in Kakadu National Park, learning about the plants, animals and Kundjeyhmi culture along the way. Read our review here.

13. Welcome, Child! by Sally Morgan
Welcome, Child! is Sally Morgan’s beautiful and heartfelt celebration of the love we feel for a new child. Simple, elegant and adorable, this stunning board book is the perfect story to share as a family and the sweetest way to welcome a little one to the world.

14. With the Falling of the Dusk by Stan Grant
Stan Grant is one of our foremost observers and chroniclers of the world in crisis. Weaving his personal experiences of reporting from the front lines of the world’s flashpoints, together with his deep understanding of politics, history and philosophy, he explores what is driving the world to crisis and how it might be averted. Read our review here.

15. How Decent Folk Behave by Maxine Beneba Clarke
On a daylight street in Minneapolis Minnesota, a Black man is asphyxiated - by callous knee of an officer, by cruel might of state, and under crushing weight of colony. In Melbourne the body of another woman has been found - this time, after catching a late tram home. These poems speak of the world that is, and sing for a world that may one day be. Read our review here.

16. Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen
This innovative mix of poetry and essay offers an eloquent witness to the entangled present, an uncompromising provocation of history, and an embattled but redemptive hope for a decolonial future. Read our review here.

17. Gunk Baby by Jamie Marina Lau
Gunk Baby brings to life a world that is devastatingly close to our own. A world where consumerism drives us to buy things we don’t need, where otherness can be used to manipulate, where a person’s worth is measured by the role they play or the way they look and where protective services isn’t about protecting others from violence but viciously punishing those who step outside the lines. Read our review here.

18. Muddy People: A Memoir by Sara El Sayed
At the turn of the millennium, Soos is growing up in an eccentric household with a lot of rules. No bikinis, despite the South-East Queensland heat. No boys, unless he’s Muslim. And no life insurance, not even when her father gets cancer. A clever, warm-hearted memoir from a new voice. Read our review here.

19. Two Cultures, One Story by Dr Robert Isaacs with Tanaz Byramji
Told with grace and strength, this memoir shares the inside story of a respected Elder and his drive to break down cultural barriers and improve the lives of his people.

20. Daughter of the River Country by Dianne O'Brien
A memoir of strength, at the age of 36, while raising six kids on her own, Dianne learns she is Aboriginal and that her great-grandfather was William Cooper, a famous Aboriginal activist. Miraculously she finds a way to forgive her traumatic past and becomes a leader in her own right, vowing to help other ‘stolen people' just like her.

21. True Tracks: Respecting Indigenous Knowledge and Culture by Terri Janke
True Tracks is a ground-breaking work that paves the way for the respectful and ethical engagement with Indigenous knowledges and cultures. Combining real-world cases and personal stories, award-winning Meriam/Wuthathi lawyer Dr Terri Janke draws on twenty years of professional experience to inform and inspire leaders across many industries - from art and architecture, to film and publishing, dance, science and tourism.

22. Born Into This by Adam Thompson
Engaging, thought-provoking stories from a young Tasmanian Aboriginal author who addresses universal themes - identity, racism, heritage destruction - from a wholly original perspective. Read our review here.

23. The Boy From the Mish by Garry Lonesborough
Compelling, honest and beautifully written, this novel for young adults is about first love, identity, and the superpower of self-belief. Read our review here.

24. Common Wealth by Gregg Dreise
A slam poetry persuasive and powerful vision of unity from award-winning First Nations creator Gregg Dreise. Passionate, yet peaceful, this picture book for mature readers is a compelling plea for a future of truth, togetherness and respect for our nation’s deep history.

25. Born to Run by Cathy Freeman, illustrated by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis
Cathy tells her story about where self belief, hard work and the power of a loving family can take you. A gorgeous picture book that will inspire girls and boys everywhere to chase their dreams.

26. Sharing by Aunty Fay Muir & Sue Lawson, illustrated by Leanne Mulgo Watson
A tender, thoughtful story with a gentle reminder of all the ways sharing makes us stronger. Sharing is book three in the award-winning Our Place series, following Respect and Family, that introduces children to First Nations philosophies that are dear to Aunty Fay’s heart.

27. Somebody’s Land by Adam Goodes & Ellie Lang, illustrated by David Hardy
Somebody’s Land is an invitation to connect with First Nations culture, to acknowledge the hurt of the past, and to join together as one community with a precious shared history as old as time.

28. The First Scientists: Deadly Inventions and Innovations from Australia’s First Peoples by Corey Tutt, illustrated by Blak Douglas
The First Scientists is the highly anticipated, illustrated science book from Corey Tutt of DeadlyScience. With kids aged 7 to 12 years in mind, this book will nourish readers' love of science and develop their respect for Indigenous knowledge at the same time.

29. Good Indian Daughter by Ruhi Lee
Delving into her youth in suburban Melbourne, she draws a heartrending yet often hilarious picture of a family in crisis, struggling to connect across generational, cultural and personal divides. A brutally honest yet brilliantly funny memoir for anyone who’s ever felt like a let-down.

30. Heroes, Rebels and Innovators: Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from history by Karen Wyld & Jaelyn Biumaiwai
Be inspired and amazed by these incredible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander icons! With colourful artwork and evocative writing, this book tells stories everyone should know.

31. Albert Namatjira by Vincent Namatjira
Award-winning artist Vincent Namatjira tells the life story of his great-grandfather, Albert Namatjira, one of Australia’s most iconic artists.

32. Story Doctors by Boori Monty Pryor, illustrated by Rita Sinclair
An exquisitely illustrated celebration of the power of storytelling to unite us, how nature connects us, and the wonderful truth that the medicine needed for healing lies within us all. Read our review here.

33. The Other Half of You by Michael Mohammed Ahmad
In this moving and timely novel, Michael Mohammed Ahmad balances the complexities of modern love with the demands of family, tradition and faith.

34. Too Migrant, Too Muslim, Too Loud by Mehreen Faruqi
From her beginnings in Pakistan and remaking in Australia, Mehreen recounts her struggle to navigate two vastly different, changing worlds without losing herself.

35. The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar
Amani Haydar suffered the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Writing with grace and beauty, Amani has drawn from this a story of female resilience and the role of motherhood in the home and in the world. Here she uses her own strength to help other survivors find their voices.

36. Design: Building on Country by Alison Page & Paul Memmott, edited by Margo Neale
Aboriginal design is of a distinctly cultural nature, based in the Dreaming and in ancient practices grounded in Country. Design: Building on Country issues a challenge for a new Australian design ethos, one that truly responds to the essence of Country and its people.

37. Danged Black Thing by Eugen Bacon
An extraordinary collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, patriarchy and womanhood, from a remarkable and original voice. Traversing the West and Africa, they celebrate the author’s own hybridity with breathtaking sensuousness and lyricism.

38. The Gaps by Leanne Hall
When sixteen-year-old Yin Mitchell is abducted, the news reverberates through the whole Year Ten class at Balmoral Ladies College. As the hours tick by, the girls know the chance of Yin being found alive is becoming smaller and smaller. The Gaps is a powerful, searing psychological novel that explores teenage fear, anger and vulnerability.

39. Coming of Age in the War on Terror by Randa Abdel-Fattah
The generation born at the time of the 9/11 attacks are turning 18. What has our changed world meant for them? Drawing on local interviews but global in scope, this book is the first to examine the lives of a generation for whom the rise of the far-right, the discourse of Trump and Brexit and the growing polarisation of politics seems normal in the long aftermath of 9/11. Read our review here.

40. Still Alive by Safdar Ahmed
In early 2011, Safdar Ahmed visited Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for the first time. He brought pencils and sketchbooks into the centre and started drawing with the people detained there. Their stories are told in this book.

41. Take Care by Eunice Andrada
Take Care explores what it means to survive within systems not designed for tenderness. Bound in personal testimony, the poems situate the act of rape within the machinery of imperialism, where human and non-human bodies, lands, and waters are violated to uphold colonial powers.

42. Stone Fruit by Lee Lai
Bron and Ray are a queer couple who enjoy their role as the fun weirdo aunties to Ray’s niece, six-year-old Nessie. Their playdates are little oases of wildness, joy, and ease in all three of their lives, even as emotional intimacy begins to erode between Ray and Bron. At turns joyful and heartbreaking, Stone Fruit reveals how painful it can be to truly become vulnerable to your loved ones - and how fulfilling it is to be finally understood for who you are.

43. Whisper Songs by Tony Birch
Divided into three sections - Blood, Skin and Water - the poems in Whisper Songs address themes of loss (of people and place), the legacies of colonial history and violence, and the relationships between Country and memory. Read our review here.

44. Sea Country by Aunty Patsy Cameron & Lisa Kennedy
In this delightful children’s picture book, Aunty Patsy Cameron generously shares the stories and traditions from her family’s seasonal island life in Tasmania.

45. She is Haunted by Paige Clark
With piercing insights into transnational Asian identity, intergenerational trauma and grief, the dynamics of mother-daughter relationships, the inexplicable oddities of female friendship, and the love of a good dog, Paige Clark has crafted an exquisite, moving and sophisticated debut work of short fiction.

46. Kunyi by Kunyi June Anne McInerney
This is a collection of tender and honest stories that will educate children on our nation’s history and remind adult readers of the real impact of the Stolen Generations.

47. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother’s identity and begins her journey. This is a glorious tale of love, loss, betrayal and triumph by a powerful new voice.

48. One Hundred Days by Alice Pung
One Hundred Days is a fractured fairytale exploring the faultlines between love and control. At times tense and claustrophobic, it is nevertheless brimming with humour, warmth and character. It is a magnificent new work from one of Australia’s most celebrated writers.

49. Permafrost by SJ Norman
This brilliant collection of short fiction explores the shifting spaces of desire, loss and longing. Inverting and queering the gothic and romantic traditions, each story represents a different take on the concept of a haunting or the haunted.

50. Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn
Set in the shanty towns of Durban, South Africa, and featuring a biracial protagonist, Malla Nunn’s coming-of-age story for young adults explores identity and belonging with a loving eye.

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Another Day in the Colony

Another Day in the Colony

Chelsea Watego

$26.99Buy now

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