Talking to My Country

Stan Grant

Talking to My Country
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Talking to My Country

Stan Grant

Winner of the Walkley Book Award 2016


An extraordinarily powerful and personal meditation on race, culture and national identity. In July 2015, as the debate over Adam Goodes being booed at AFL games raged and got ever more heated and ugly, Stan Grant wrote a short but powerful piece for The Guardian that went viral, not only in Australia but right around the world, shared over 100,000 times on social media. His was a personal, passionate and powerful response to racism in Australian and the sorrow, shame, anger and hardship of being an indigenous man.

‘We are the detritus of the brutality of the Australian frontier’, he wrote, ‘We remained a reminder of what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed to scaffold the building of this nation’s prosperity.’

Stan Grant was lucky enough to find an escape route, making his way through education to become one of our leading journalists. He also spent many years outside Australia, working in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, a time that liberated him and gave him a unique perspective on Australia. This is his very personal meditation on what it means to be Australian, what it means to be indigenous, and what racism really means in this country.

Talking To My Country is that rare and special book that talks to every Australian about their country - what it is, and what it could be. It is not just about race, or about indigenous people but all of us, our shared identity. Direct, honest and forthright, Stan is talking to us all. He might not have all the answers but he wants us to keep on asking the question: how can we be better?

Review

In 2015, veteran journalist and Wiradjuri man Stan Grant caught the attention of Australia with his short but passionate response to the booing of footballer Adam Goodes. Earlier this year, he got the country talking again when his speech on racism at the IQ2 Debate was released online a few days before Australia/Invasion Day. Now, Grant is set to do the same all over again. Talking to My Country is one of those rare books that has the potential to change the way people think.

Described as a personal meditation on race, culture and national identity, Talking to My Country is part memoir, part letter and part history lesson. Grant opens with a declaration – ‘These are the things I want to say to you’ – before admitting that what he has to say won’t be easy. It’s this direct, unadorned manner of enquiry that sustains his writing.

As a journalist and through his family heritage, Grant is a storyteller. Within these pages he shares tales of his life and those of his ancestors with great gentleness, even while discussing some of our history’s darkest moments. It’s significant that these events are often left out of the common Australian narratives. Hard statistics pepper his yarns and attest to the reality of life for First Australians today.

With this work, Grant allows himself space to dwell on hard questions – the kind without answers. Such a decision is always a risk for a writer, yet here this lack of resolution is understandable, even necessary. The answers do not yet exist, and to imply they do would feel disingenuous. Instead of leaving me with a sense of satisfaction, this book inspired me to read further, to ask questions – and this feels like Grant’s intention. More than anything, Talking to My Country is a call-to-action, and an extremely effective one.


Bronte Coates is the digital content coordinator. She is also the prize manager of the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.

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