Review Blog

Mar 30 2016

Maralinga's long shadow, Yvonne's story by Christobel Mattingley

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Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN 9781760290177
(Age: 11 - Adult) Highly recommended. Aboriginal peoples. Nuclear weapons. Biography. Non-fiction. Maralinga's long shadow continues the themes explored by Christobel Mattingley in collaboration with the Anangu people in Maralinga, the Anangu story (2009) and Survival in our own land (1988).
This latest book is Yvonne Edward's story, a story that reflects the experience of too many Aboriginal people, turned off their traditional land and their children taken away. Yvonne's recollections expose the further horror of the Maralinga nuclear bomb tests carried out by the British government from 1953 to 1957. As Yvonne says so powerfully it was her grandparents' home that was bombed. 'That was their home where the bomb went off', sending up a radioactive cloud and contaminating the land. Subsequent generations of Yvonne's family suffered the consequences. Her husband was one of the Aboriginal men sent in to clean up the site without the protective clothing worn by the white men. Her family and others travelled through the area unaware of the dangers to their health. Devastatingly, her husband and two sons died of cancer and her grandson was born with a stomach defect. Yvonne herself died before she could finally work on the story she wanted people to know about. But Mattingley had collected enough notes from their long conversations to be able to bring the book to fruition. It is an important story to tell.
Learning about this terrible history through the lived experience of Yvonne's family makes it so much more potent, and very sad. Mattingley uses simple though often poetic language to tell the story, often using the words of Yvonne herself. Coloured photographs of the people and country make it very real and personal. This story, and Yvonne's beautiful paintings reproduced in the book, creates a wonderful legacy of a strong and courageous woman, proud in her culture, and determined to be heard.
Helen Eddy

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