Books & Literature

Book Review: Homecoming, by Elfie Shiosaki

HISTORY: Fragments of stories about four generations of Noongar women and how they navigated colonisation to hold their families together.

Homecoming is a fast read, but equally fascinating and frightening.

Elfie Shiosaki is a Noongar and Yawuru writer whose works include co-editor of the maar bidi: Next Generation Black Writing anthology.

In this latest book, Shiosaki explores her own family history, taking us back through four generations to Australia’s darkest history of colonisation, assimilation, White Australia, and the Stolen Generation. This isn’t a happy read, and the use of Indigenous terminology sometimes makes it a difficult read, but there’s power in Shiosaki’s words and the personal experiences she shares.

Through the use of poetry, recorded storytelling archives, and prose, Shiosaki breaks the narrative into three sections: resist, survive, renew. She shares stories of family, discrimination, hope and heartbreak. The overall message is summarised nowhere more succinctly than in her poem Not Equal (page 80), which remains sadly true today:

not equal, she said

her eyes left mine
retreating into herself

not treated equally, she said

correcting herself
teaching me

The short glossary of Noongar words at the end of the book are unlisted in the table of contents and would be more beneficial up front for readers who do not know the language. It consists of only 13 words, developed in consultation with Len Collard, but would have made the book much more readable if reviewed first.

Homecoming is a short read, but equally fascinating and frightening. It’s a challenging reminder of our past and a challenge to the behaviours and attitudes of today. It’s also an ode to those who suffered through the discrimination of yesteryear and a message that they are not alone or forgotten.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: April 2021
RRP: $24.99

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