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Mirandi Riwoe

The potential for Australian literature to address the history of colonised people in this country and elsewhere is of great consequence. New perspectives not only rewrite history to include ‘herstory’, but also reconsider what we believe and broaden our view of ourselves as active contributors to our collective and individual past. A spate of recent books has attempted to do this: Anita Heiss’s Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: River of Dreams (2021) and Geraldine Brooks’s Horse (2022) are two that come to mind.

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The Burnished Sun (UQP, $29.99 pb, 288 pp) by Mirandi Riwoe, Danged Black Thing (Transit Lounge, $29.99 pb, 240 pp) by Eugen Bacon, and Sadvertising (Vintage, $32.99 pb, 298 pp) by Ennis Ćehić are powerful, inventive, and self-assured short story collections that traverse fractured and contested ground through their often displaced and alienated narrators.

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In this multi-perspective novel, Mirandi Riwoe trains her piercing postcolonial gaze on Gold Rush-era Australia, lending richness to the lives of the Chinese settlers who are often mere footnotes in our history. Ying and Lai Yue are outsiders before their arrival in Far North Queensland, where they have gone to find their fortunes after their younger siblings are sold into slavery. While Ying struggles with hiding her gender in the male-dominated goldfields, Lai Yue is haunted by his betrothed, Shan – killed in a landslide back in China – and by his failure to protect the family from penury. Meanwhile, in nearby Maytown, a white woman, Meriem, grapples with her exile from respectable society while working as a maid to local sex worker Sophie.

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The roofing gives a little under his weight but Oskar’s not afraid of heights when he’s on his skateboard. He can see his friends below. Gav has his camera ready and Amadi gives him the thumbs up. ... (read more)