Review Blog

May 28 2012

Waiting at the gate by Robyn Caughlan with Jason K Foster

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Magabala Books, 2012. ISBN 978 1 921248 52 8 .
(Ages: 14+) Autobiography. Aboriginal themes. When her sister sends her a photo of her Irish father, Robyn's hands creep towards the envelope, taking forever to open it to look at the man portrayed. Doing so fills her with dread as she remembers the years of being Dah - Dee's little girl, suffering sexual abuse until he died when she was 5. This opens this story of rising above the tragedies that marred her early life, as she struggled with early motherhood and marriage, abuse at the hands of her partner, running away, losing her children and then going back to him to be able to see her kids. All the while her adoptive parents are loyal and supportive, being a cushion whenever she needed it. It was lovely to read the sections where they were prominent, with their stability and love oozing from them and their home, always there ready to catch Robyn as she fell, giving her renewed courage.
Later Robyn begins to paint, being often the only pupil in her teacher's class. The story continues as Robyn develops her skills and becomes an internationally renowned artist, the first Indigenous artist to be feted in this way. Along the way her spirituality also develops and this forms part of her renewed vigor with her painting.
What saves this book from being yet another litany of horror and abuse in one woman's life is the loyalty of her adoptive family, followed by the love and support she receives from her friends and supporters, giving her the tenacity to succeed. While overlong, the story will be one that teens, particularly girls, will read and share, discussing pitfalls she meets and the alternatives to accepting a life of abuse and neglect, marvelling at her courage to overcome all that happens to her.
Fran Knight

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