I'm familiar with Rick Morton's work from his pieces in The Monthly
magazine and I've also heard him on the 7AM podcast. But I wasn't prepared for the sheer gut punch that is One Hundred Years of Dirt
. Part personal memoir, part social analysis, Morton uses his own family's horrific experiences of addiction, violence, and poverty to explore Australia's inadequate response to these issues. A gay, working-class boy from the country, carrying a crippling weight of intergenerational trauma, Morton has struggled with mental illness and entrenched disadvantage, his mother still lives on a precarious income, and his siblings have battled to overcome their own issues, one successfully, one not. Morton is brutally frank in examining the myth that anyone can fight clear of social disadvantage if they work hard enough; well, no, it's not as simple as that.
This is a superb, clear-eyed and courageous story that deserves a wide readership. Though there are episodes of violence and suffering that are difficult to read, there is also humour and insight. This could have been an angry book, and it is sometimes angry, but it is overwhelmingly a call for greater compassion and understanding. If you haven't already, I urge you to read it.
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