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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Pascoe’

Book review: Dark Emu, Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pascoe

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 21, 2014


I first became aware of this remarkable book when two of my favourite bloggers posted reviews of it on the same day: they are both historians, and they were both impressed.

Yvonne at Stumbling Through the Past piqued my interest with her comment that Pascoe used the journals of Australia’s explorers to make his case:

Pascoe draws on the work of Bill Gammage, R Gerritsen and others as well as his own research make a strong argument for the reconsideration of our understanding of the way Aboriginal people lived in colonial times. He draws extensively from the journals of explorers to present a remarkable array of evidence about the agricultural and technological sophistication of Aborigines before contact.

And Janine at The Resident Judge of Port Phillip linked the book to some recent unfortunate remarks made by our blundering Prime Minister.

Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu argues directly against the idea that Australia was ‘scarcely settled’. It was, he argues, very much settled in a way that forces us to reconsider the ‘hunter-gatherer’ label that is often used to describe pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians.

Like many teachers, I’ve used the term hunter-gatherer in exactly that way, and so I felt impelled to read the book. I’ve had Bill Gammadge’s award-winning The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia on the TBR for ages, and I will get round to reading it one day, but it was an indigenous voice I wanted to hear. Now that I’ve read it for myself, I think that this is an indigenous voice Australians should hear…

In 156 pages, Pascoe has inverted almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. Importantly, he’s not relying on oral history, which runs the risk of being too easily debunked, his sources are the journals of notable explorers and surveyors, of pastoralists and protectors. He quotes them verbatim, describing all the signs of a complex civilisation but viewed through the blinkered lens of appropriation and White superiority. These diaries describe systematic agriculture and aquaculture; permanent dwellings; storage and preservation methods and the use of fire to manage the difficult Australian environment. The reader can sense Pascoe’s pride in asserting that all these complex systems were managed through stable government that was fundamentally democratic in nature. (Elders, after all, earned their role through initiation and learning the law: they did not inherit their power or grasp it through conquest.)

There is much more to this exciting book than I have outlined here so I urge you to follow the links above to Yvonne’s and Janine’s reviews. They interrogate the book as historians do, with the expertise of their profession.

As a teacher, however, I recommend it as essential reading for any educator.

Dark Emu has been shortlisted for Victorian Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing.

Author: Bruce Pascoe
Title: Dark Emu Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident
Publisher: Magabala Books. 2014
ISBN: 9781922142436
Source: Casey-Cardinia Library

Availability
Fishpond: Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident?
Or direct from Magabala Books

Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Book Reviews | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Book Review: Fog a Dox by Bruce Pascoe

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 7, 2012


Fog a Dox is another addition to the reviews of children’s books which I’m contributing to Indigenous Literature Week that I’ve been hosting on my ANZ LitLovers Blog.

Bruce Pascoe, of Bunerong-Tasmanian heritage, is an award-winning indigenous author, editor and compiler of anthologies. (I have a copy of his adult novel Earth on my TBR and will be reading it soon.) In addition to writing a number of novels and non-fiction books for adults, he has also published a Wathaurong dictionary to support the retrieval and teaching of the Wathaurong language in south-western Victoria. His other children’s novel, The Chainsaw File, was released in 2011.

A chapter book suitable for 10-14 year old readers, Fog a Dox tells the story of Albert Cutts, a tree-feller who despite the disapproval of others keeps a ‘dox’: a fox cub raised by a Albert’s dingo Brim.  Albert lives a solitary life as a bushman until he has an accident which changes everything …

The publisher’s blurb says that his gentle story-telling style is reminiscent of Alan (I Can Jump Puddles) Marshall but Pascoe has a dry humour all his own.  Brim, the dog, does ‘what dogs are very good at: scratching’ because there is

Nothing like a good scratch, followed by a little sniff of the air, a glance at Albert, and then a little dog-think, which never took very long; food always looms too large in their mind and blots out anything but the thought of a bone buried near the woodheap – or was it under the verandah, or the apple tree? Oh well, I forget where, I’ll have to check them all.

Albert would sometimes catch Brim as one of her thoughts evaporated under the dominant influence of bone memories and call out to her, ‘Lose concentration again, darlin’? It happens my furry princess, even to the best of brains.  One minute we’re working out how many eight-bee-one planks in a sixty-foot log and next minute we’re thinking of rabbit stew.  It happens, ol’ darlin’, and that’s a fact.

But what Albert didn’t know was that Brim had been teaching herself to count. (p10-11) 

And because Brim can count she knows when Albert produces three little motherless fox cubs for her to mother along with her own pups, that this is ‘lotsa foxes’ and she is not best pleased. But a dog that loves and trusts its master will do a lot to please:

That’s another one, Brim’s eyes signalled alarm, that’s … lotsa foxes.
But the foxes just suckled ferociously while Albert squatted down beside Brim and reassured her with a calming hand repeatedly following the curve of her brow to the base of her neck, strong, sure strokes pressing calm and acceptance into her heart.  If Albert thought it was all right for a bitch to suckle a fox, lotsa foxes, then it must be all right.  Why, even Rome was built by human babies suckled by a wolf.  Dogs didn’t learn much history but paid particular attention to the bits where dogs and wolves were involved.
(p30)  

The cub that stays with Albert after weaning turns out to be a little miracle that changes a lot of lives.  

Cranky Dave performs a kind of Boo Radley role in the plot, but all the characters – despite their flaws – have that honest bush quirkiness that Aussies love to admire.  The elements of indigenous cultural knowledge and awareness are lightly handled but respectful, and readers who love animals will be enchanted by this book.  It would make an exciting film with a heart-warming ending, and is a good one for reading aloud and discussing with a class too.

 Like all good books about Aboriginal history and culture, the book acknowledges the Aboriginal heritage of the author and locates his country. 

Highly recommended.  

Author: Bruce Pascoe
Title: Fog a Dox
Publisher: Magabala Books, 2012
ISBN: 9781921248559
Review copy courtesy of Magabala Books

Availability (from August 2012):
Fishpond:Fog A Dox or direct from Magabala Books

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian Children's Literature, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »