Written by Tara June Winch
Contemporary, Cultural, Diversity
10th Anniversary Edition Published January 1st 2016
Thank you to UQP
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When May’s mother dies suddenly, she and her brother Billy are taken in by Aunty. However, their loss leaves them both searching for their place in a world that doesn’t seem to want them. While Billy takes his own destructive path, May sets out to find her father and her Aboriginal identity.
Her journey leads her from the Australian east coast to the far north, but it is the people she meets, not the destinations, that teach her what it is to belong.
Swallow the Air is an unforgettable story of living in a torn world and finding the thread to help sew it back together.
Aboriginal girl May Gibson's mother tragically took her own life, leaving May and older brother Billy behind. The two now find themselves living with their Aunt, a woman dependent on alcohol and abused by her boyfriend until Billy defends the woman who took the two orphaned children into her home. Billy walked out, while May stayed behind to pick up what little hope remained.
We didn't talk about Mum or our Dad's or all the booze and shit around us, we knew the world in the same way that we knew each other, in the quietness than we shared.
May wants to feel a sense of family once more, her journey taking her back to her ancestral community where her mother once shared her stories. Along her path to family, May encounters others that will shape her, her experiences driving her further into the wide, red land.
Swallow The Air is absolutely breathtaking. An emotional journey of Australia and it's indigenous community through the eyes of a young girl touched by sadness. Never have I felt so moved by any work of fiction. May was a character representative of aspects of our broken country, where Aboriginal communities are left behind while white society moves forward. Her struggle made my heart ache with grief, losing her mother at such a tender age and trying to find that sense of family once more.
The prose is lyrical, yet incredibly haunting. The vividness of May's journey from the mining Town of Wollongong to the far north of Australia truly is a love letter to outback Australia. She sees beauty in the land we take for granted while her vision without a doubt creating wanderlust in readers. Equally exposed to abuse as she is to the kindness strangers, May's spirit shines. She's determined and intelligent, but hasn't been given an opportunity for an education or carefree life that most children are now afforded, so seeks out the family she never knew to learn about herself and her heritage.
Even beyond the storyline, the writing is immaculate. A mixture of lyricism and stark rawness rarely seen in young adult fiction.
Daylight blanching our dreamings, the gritty air fuming back to our noses, engines starting back in our listening, and we remember what we're all really seeing. Beach lines of gutters, trunks of layered windows, metal wings fleeing the sky, and dinner on the stove. We don't mind, because anytime we can leave in our minds.
One of the realities May also faces is how Indigenous Australians can be treated by our police, authorities and our communities. May's life isn't a stereotype, she's a young woman that society as a whole has neglected, representing our traditional land owners that have been overlooked. May's journey to search for her white father makes for an incredibly emotional read, finding herself, finding who she is and rising above the issues that plague her community and forging her own path.
Swallow The Air is a must read, in particular for fellow Australians who love fictional stories that are true to life. May's story is heartbreaking, poignant and joyful and I loved each and every moment of her journey. It's a love letter to our wide, red land despite our issues and differences. Tara June Winch is a phenomenal author who places the reader on the road to self discovery along with May, where you will share the sadness and hope of this remarkable young lady.
The Final Verdict
Kelly loved Swallow The Air and urges you all to buy a copy. Or ten. If you need more diversity within your young adult, a quiet lyricism and a storyline that will stay with you long after the final page is turned, buy it.
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