Review Blog

Jul 16 2015

Becoming Kirrali Lewis by Jane Harrison

cover image

Magabala Books, 2015. ISBN 9781922142801
(Age: 14+) Recommended for its unique historical and cultural revelations. Becoming Kirrali Lewis is a story about an Aboriginal university freshman in the 80's. Kirrali was adopted as a newborn by a white family in a small country town. Her academic success takes her to the city to study law, where she encounters other indigenous people for the first time. After she begins to interact with other indigenous people and is assaulted by racists along with Kirk, her black boyfriend; the desire to search for her biological parents is finally kindled in a delayed but inevitable search for identity. Kirrali is more than surprised to discover that her natural mother is a white woman, working at the Koori Advancement Centre, who fell pregnant to an aboriginal activist in the 60's before giving her baby up for adoption. Cherie's experience of the 60's showcases a different point of view in a separate section of the novel. The nature of the relationship between all three main characters is dramatically contextualized in these two intriguing generations of Aboriginal activism in Australian history.
2014 State Library of Qld Black & Write prize winner and playwright, Jane Harrison, undoubtedly has a flair for drama interwoven with racial intolerance and family tensions. The lacklustre cover doesn't inspire but Harrison's transition to novelist is probably key in understanding my own lack of connection to two dimensional characters - despite employing techniques such as changing narrators and points of view, the irony of Kirrali's crush on a white hometown boy and flashbacks to the 60's world of Kirrali's biological parents.
Deborah Robins

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