Please allow me to step aside from the sexy stuff for a moment . . .
I'm lucky. For a lot of reasons. Today I'm lucky because I'm holding a real, 3 dimensional copy of my soon-to-be-released book, The Yearning, in my hand. (Ebooks are all very well, but there is nothing to compare with the physical artifact). A book I was able to write because I'm literate, compliments of the Australian government school system. This morning I was lucky because I woke up - and was able to read the weather and emails on my iPad. Last night I was lucky because I spent an hour reading with my daughter, then an hour more reading to myself.
It's easy to take simple privileges for granted. In Australia we often take our freedom (political, social, economic) for granted. That also goes for hot showers, fresh food and being literate.
I'm so grateful I'm able to read, and able to share the act of reading with my child. Books are a window to understanding the world. They have opened up many fascinating conversations, have presented me with new friends, new ideas, new knowledge. Being literate also gives me the power to act in my own world. I can drive because I can read road signs. I can stand up for myself because I can read rules and inform myself about how my world works. It's a skill I use and take for granted every single day.
Yet there are many children in Australia who don't have access to the world of words because . . . well . . . because they happened to be born in an extremely remote Aboriginal community. Yet it isn't as simple as that. The myriad of factors that have contributed to such enormous gaps in literacy between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous children in Australia are complex and difficult to summarise in 100 words or less. It has a lot to do with successive policy failures and with our colonised culture's inherent blind spots. The important thing is, someone is doing something about it. The Indigenous Literacy Foundation is the major charity supported by Aussie Author month - a month of celebrating the unique qualities of Australian authors.
Being a female Australian author is a tough gig. The history of gender bias in terms of publication and prizes in this country is already well documented. But try being an Aboriginal author, or female Aboriginal author, and then you're really up against it. Which is why I've made it a priority to read Aboriginal authors, and buy their books, and follow their tweets and blogs, for the past few years. Aboriginal stories and voices are vital to Australia's growth and cultural identity. Until Aboriginal authors enjoy the same prominent position in our cultural landscape as non-Indigenous authors, we can't really see who we are, we can't be whole as a nation.
So, to celebrate Aussie author month, and to encourage up-take of our wonderful Aboriginal authors, I'm offering a giveaway of signed copy of my new book, The Yearning, plus my pre-loved copy of Black Chicks Talking by Leah Purcell (featuring the likes of Deborah Mailman, Rachel Perkins and Kathryn Hay). Just leave a comment here naming an Aboriginal author you've read and enjoyed. Open to Aust/NZ residents only. Winner announced 7 May 2013.
Or better yet, leave a donation on the Aussie Author Month Indigenous Literacy Foundation fundraising site.