Am I Black Enough for You? by Anita Heiss
There are many reasons to like the writing of Anita Heiss. She’s funny in a dry, laconic way, she’s a straight talker – there are no frills here – and she’s passionate about her topic of racial relationships. Dr Heiss’s book is a personal account of being herself in a country that seems obsessed with stereotyping. She was born a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central NSW but grew up in Sydney with her Aboriginal mother and her Austrian father. She considers Sydney her home. To be honest you could not get someone more urban than Heiss!
Reading about her life can make you feel a tad inadequate. Dr Heiss is an academic, author and activist. She was one of the drivers behind one of the most important legal decisions of our time when she joined others in charging newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt successfully with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. This event is recorded here and shows the great support and community Heiss has around her.
Despite her vast achievements, Heiss rightly feels we have some way to go before acceptance is achieved. Her book is an offering of greater appreciation of what it’s like to be an Aboriginal. I particularly enjoyed the chapter titled ‘If you are a black woman you should …’ where she lists all the assumed positions that people expect from her and knocks them over! Clearly these facts need to be told.
Heiss’ book is informative, personal and accessible. It serves well as a myth-breaker and also a style of political memoir. Every high school in Australia should be ensuring this book is on its curriculum.
Christine Gordon is the Events Coordinator for Readings and is a committee member of The Stella Prize.