Boy He Cry: An Island Odyssey: Roger Averill

Shelley, an idealistic young PhD anthropology student and her partner Roger, a writer, arrive on a remote Papuan island for 12 months without any housing, furniture or friends. The islanders agree to accommodate the couple and willingly pitch in to build them a house, assign them family members and attempt to coach them in the islanders’ intricate dialect.

Averill’s memoir shows a genuine love for the people he lived with so intimately for so long on an island with no electricity, two-way radio or boats larger than dug-out canoes, and also reveals his own personal struggles with enforced Christianity, lingering colonial racism and perceptions of poverty. Were the Nuakatans poorer for having a shorter life expectancy and non-existent health services, or richer for having time to forge real family ties, friendships and communal events? Averill’s self-deprecation emphasises that he’s no K2-climbing adventure hero, which only serves to make his writing more human and able to reveal the strong bonds he made with the islanders, their culture and their country.

An engrossing and touching account of an unforgettable experience.