Author: Guest blogger
By Anita Heiss
I’m going to be completely honest and say that when I started writing in the genre known to most as ‘chick lit’ I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. The novel Not Meeting Mr Right (Random House 2007) was as much about purging myself of 15 years of bad dates as it was about writing urban Aboriginal women into Australian fiction. With that first book I was quickly boxed into the ‘Koori chick lit’ genre, or as my friends call it ‘chock-lit’, and the next three books then fell into that category as well.
Since that first novel, I have been strategically conscious of the audience I am writing for. I want to connect with Australian women readers of commercial fiction (which is what I prefer to call it), particularly those who have never engaged with Aboriginal women, arts, culture or society generally. I want them to connect through stories about relationships and the things we have in common as women, our shared human emotions of love, heartache, fear of rejection and so on. And I want to demonstrate the strength of women’s friendships across cultures.
It is through these stories of relationships with our friends and at times the elusive ‘One’ that I can then weave the things that are equally important to me: Aboriginal arts, culture, politics, identity and community issues. In this way, the complexities of my every day life, and the lives of all the Aboriginal women I know – who are lawyers, policy makers, arts practitioners, community workers and so forth – can also be showcased on the page. In this way, I am consciously writing capable, strong, educated, articulate and often gorgeous Aboriginal women onto the Australian literary radar.
Paris Dreaming is my latest effort, with Libby Cutmore, a young Gamilaroi woman originally from Moree, who finds herself in Canberra managing educational projects at the National Aboriginal Gallery, situated in the Old Parliament House. She’s efficient, cost effective and organised. She writes lots of lists! And she’s ready to take on the international arena with her ‘Pitch for Paris’ and a stint at the Musee du Quai Branlee.
Her journey also takes in the local politics of France as it happened while I was researching there, including legislation banning the burqa and the Roma crackdown which led to the deportation of Romanian refugees.
Because of the political, cultural and social issues prominent in my work, I’m annoyed at the elitist hierarchy that exists in this country, placing ‘chick lit’ at the bottom of the ladder. A ladder that suggests my books are lesser than someone else’s. I am writing about the lives of Aboriginal women in Australia today. Are we of lesser value also?