Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'Beautiful Balts: From displaced persons to new Australians' by Jayne Persian

Francesca Sasnaitis reviews 'Beautiful Balts: From displaced persons to new Australians' by Jayne Persian

Beautiful Balts: From displaced persons to new Australians

by Jayne Persian

NewSouth, $39.99 pb, 250 pp, 9781742234854

I grew up in a New Australian household, and admit at the outset to a biased view. My Lithuanian-born parents were actual Baltic immigrants among the other nationalities referred to by the blanket designation ‘Balt’. Much of the anecdotal material of Jayne Persian’s Beautiful Balts was deeply familiar to me from childhood: stories of the shock of a new culture and country so at odds with the idyllic descriptions handed out to prospective migrants; the oddities of Australian English; heart-warming stories of kindness; humorous ones of petty provincialism; and tales of less kind or frankly hostile reactions to difference. The sequence of events, dates, statistics, and official policies were less familiar and, therefore, of greater interest in so far as the data filled some blanks in my knowledge.

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Francesca Sasnaitis

Francesca Sasnaitis

Francesca Sasnaitis is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia and has recently completed her first novel, Summerlands, which is partially based on her family’s experience of World War II.