Black and Blue


I think I've recovered my reading mojo. During the last couple of years, in and out of lockdown, clouded with Covid anxiety, my instinct was to bunker down and wrap myself in comfort reading -- books I'd read before, childhood favourites, messages of loving hope like Elizabeth Goudge, or pure entertainment like Jill Paton Walsh's Peter Wimsey novels.

But suddenly I find myself with the mental strength and curiosity for some stronger fare: hence I've been reading some fresh new children's and YA fiction, and some more challenging non-fiction. Black and Blue definitely falls into the latter category.

Veronica Gorrie's memoir is divided into two sections. Black deals with her childhood and youth in an Aboriginal family, the impacts of racism, intergenerational trauma and abuse, as well as deep love and connection. In Blue, Gorrie tells of her ten years in the police force. She joined hoping to help change the way her people viewed the police, but ended by realising that she would first have to change the way the police view her community. The stories she tells of cultural discrimination are deeply disturbing, sobering and dismaying for anyone who hopes that things are getting better.

Gorrie has an easy, conversational style, leavened with moments of humour and wisdom which help the reader to swallow the darker episodes. This is such a painful story, I had to break it into small sections and read it slowly, but alongside the catalogue of loss and trauma there is also much love and loyalty. Black and Blue is an essential read for anyone trying to understand race relations in Australia, confronting but enlightening.

EDIT: I didn't realise till yesterday that Black and Blue had been awarded the Victorian Premier's Award for Literature! Congratulations, Veronica!

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