The cover of Tiddas by Anita Heiss (Simon and Schulster, 2014) boasts Jacaranda blossoms. I’m not sure of the significance of the flowers for this book, but I love that cover.
In January I devised my list of must read books for the year. Books from the long- and short-lists of literary awards, and publishers’ recommendations go only so far. I wanted to indulge myself by choosing to read differently for a year. I thought, also, it would broaden the range of books I reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2015.
A book with flowers on the cover, tick. Chick-lit, tick. A book by an Aboriginal woman, tick.Tiddas covers a few items on my list.
Dr Anita Heiss is a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales. She is a prolific writer and social commentator on Aboriginal issues. Her writing across a number of genres (history, poetry, children’s literature, memoir, humor and chick-lit) has been widely acclaimed. She has received numerous awards.
She is a passionate advocate for Aboriginal literacy.
Her family history/memoir, Am I Black Enough for You? (Random House, 2012) was awarded the Victorian Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing.
Her novels include Meeting Mr Right, Not Meeting Mr Right, Paris Dreaming and Manhattan Dreaming. The protagonists in each of these is a young, high-achieving Aboriginal woman. I have been delighted at times, reading these novels, to find references to Aboriginal poets, singers and rich social commentary.
These books are firmly set in particular locations which are essential to the stories. This writing technique resonates with me. I must confess that I would never have visited the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris if I had not read about it in Paris Dreaming. That visit became a highlight of my trip.
I looked forward to reading Tiddas.
In this book, Anita Heiss writes about five middle-aged members of a Brisbane-based book club. The women have grown up together in Mudgee in the Central West of New South Wales. Their friendships are as close and caring as those of sisters (tiddas). As a book-club, they choose to read only books by Aboriginal writers
The author continues her social and political commentary on the lives of urban Aboriginal women. What is different, however, is that these protagonists are older. Their lives are different from those of young, care-free, career-pursuing twenty-some-things. There is more complexity and depth.
One small criticism is that I felt the story became slightly fragmented as the point of view changed from one to another of the women. Sometimes connections appeared to be lost in the transitions. This may have been an inevitable consequence of the structure of the novel.
In any case, Tiddas is a thoroughly enjoyable read by a warm and funny writer.
This is a review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, 2015.