Which is truer – Fact or Fiction – in search of the authentic writing self – Saturday Writing Sagas 9

Culture Smile

Culture Smile – By June Perkins

I choose to speak in riddles.

The first time I wrote this post it had more overtly personal  family stories in it, yet I backed away and thought I can’t write that post yet because I am grappling with a deeper question.

Which is truer, fact or fiction?

I have responsibilities to those I am going to write of, or be inspired to write characters for.

Do you remember the first time you learnt that history might be biased in the telling, that history told from the ‘victors’ point of view will usually portray them without critique? Growing up none of us wanted to be native Americans in cow boys and Indians, because they always died. That was the story around when I was a child.

Do you remember the first time you learnt of the enforced silences of cultures, women, countries, the disadvantaged, the non-canon,caused by the lack of publication or shared words, shared spaces to bring their stories into the open?

Do you ever worry about the authentic self?  Who do I write as?  Me? A narrator nothing like me? A narrator a little like me? A narrator who is an amalgam of all I know and can imagine and research as well.  Are my stories real? Are they imagined?  Will I stay in my comfort zone?  Will I push beyond that and take you the reader with me? I am not traditional. I never can be?

I set about the story of fictionalising the real to approach a deeper emotional truth, to see the signifiers of my own life and of those in my life more universally and my story genre slips between real and not real, fiction, and non fiction.  It is apparent that research is going to be needed to understand this story.

Is it as a simple as fact, non-fact?  What do facts tell us?  What is the deeper story? What are the secret stories?  Are all tellers of tales true reliable?  Why do they hide things? Do they demand of us change of names, and exact locations to ‘protect the guilty’?

Are there some stories I will never tell? How much disguise will I have to put on to ‘protect the innocent?’

This is more than theory, this is the story of second generation migrants, looking for home in heritage, space and story.  This is the story of those whose new identity is made up of an environment where several languages are spoken at home, and sometimes there is no translator,  Who want more than the simple definition of ‘she had to go home to understand,’ What  is home?

Diaspora – it’s a long time since I thought about that word.

It’s the story of not knowing if you will ever decode the mysteries of those close to you who grew up in other languages, with other cultural codes, that you struggled to understand as you were encultured in their new homeland.

Dancing Culture – June Perkins

What are the dangers and perils of making a connection of becoming obligated? Will you think less of me if I never go into the birth land space, and why should that be so?

I am not confused, down-trodden, silent – I am seeking for the writing light, where I can present you the stories that have made me, and yet is that really me you might wonder?

They dance culture just for one night
my daughter accepted in
where I never felt welcome
why did I never feel that
and she smiles
as they dress her in the costumes
of culture they have reinvented
when they don’t have the right materials nearby

Is this copy real
unreal, imagined?

All I know is I am happy for her
that she has a taste I was not given in this way
and is the making a journey to her bubu’s homeland
and  yet I ask

Why did my mother never take us to her home?

Is she taking my daughter there now in the only
way she can
now her parents have passed on?

What is your idea of home or your authentic writing self?

She Called me Paisa: Piece 3

My friend – photographer unknown.

She called me Paisa, respecting my PNG heritage before I fully did.

She was a proud Pom and had perfect Alexander technique poise.

We wrote in purple pens, a purple language, long before I knew of purple prose. Everything was ‘purple’ in our best friend world.  She introduced me to Prince.  Years later I would ask my eldest son to play me ‘Purple Rain.’

We played croquet as her brother played guitar. She was comfortable in her own skin, a stay up all night talker with a purple passion for life and chatter.

She loved photography and her dark room, and my simple one click, one setting Kodak felt like nothing in comparison. I wished I could be an artist like her.  Because of her I first began to dream of photography, a dormant dream that took many years to wake.

At school camp we belted out all the songs we knew under the moon, just teenage girls finding freedom’s voice unafraid of anyone hearing us.

My mum felt she might be a bad influence, but let me write to her anyway when she moved away.

Turned out she liked what some might call bad boys, and wrote me letters of all those she met and pashed, long before I even thought of boys much.

She was every mother’s nightmare. She wrote to me to let me know she ran away from home, a final letter with no return address.  I couldn’t write back.  She took a moment to say goodbye and disappeared with her boyfriend over and hills and far away.

She was every writer’s dream – the  friend who does everything you know you won’t and inspires you to create characters who don’t care what anyone thinks of them.

Everyone needs a friend who makes them unafraid of the world.  Who says ‘awaken and dream.’ She was my first real best friend.

She called me Paisa.

Inspired by the Who Shaped Me project for ABC Open this month’s  Pearlz Dreaming blog theme will be about the people who inspire me and there are lots of them!

Reinvention of the Writing ‘stay at home’ Mum

sunset 004

Sunset Hibiscus – June Perkins

Ever been through a process of reinvention?

I have been thinking a lot about this lately.  After completing a PhD at the University of Sydney six years ago I was tired.  I had done this with three kids, several house moves,  a year off studies to work full time, and my hubby being a student for much of it also.  I had been trying to be superwoman and it had been tough.  I have to say my house was rather messy during this time and we lived nowhere near extended family either.  The kids went to childcare sparingly as I wanted to see as much of them as I could whilst they were growing up.

I needed a rest ! When I say a rest, I mean some time to be with family and in a way myself.  Luckily my dear partner got a regular job as a teacher, and I was able to take a break from studies and paid employment.  It was like taking a deep breath to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

We moved to the country in the midst of all this – and my time of reinvention was punctuated by being in a town with few paid opportunities for a tertiary trained teacher, and limited choices in employment.  I was probably ready to do paid work around three years ago but it’s taken a while to realise what sort.

I have come to know that the paths open to me in the country lie in business, retraining to be a highschool teacher or even arts counsellor,  making it as a writer/freelancer.  There is one other option and that is to leave for a university town and return to the tertiary sector.

I stand at a cross roads, with the experience of having been through a cyclone, coordinating community writing projects and on the verge of doing my first solo book and photography projects.

I am pretty certain I don’t want to teach highschool or primary, although I don’t mind guest spots to come and work with youth mentoring particularly in creative things.

Sometimes people don’t understand I can’t volunteer anymore, but need to build a future for my family – and move into regular paid work and business.  I may even do both.  When I am older and more established or if I make it big time I can give back more.  This is the prime of life to be earning and building something to retire from paid employment later.  As I move away from the voluntary sphere I hope people understand that does not lessen my love for community.

How long have women struggled to have access to the freedom and independance of paid work?

Yet, the work, homelife, spiritual balance has been crucial to my well being.  I don’t regret my time out to know my family and myself.  In that crucial time I have not stopped contributing to my community and my family.  I have been the writing stay at home mum who loves to take photographs everywhere.  Whilst some laugh at me, even ask what on earth are you doing, I know privately that my command of my camera has improved and that I love it and will always take pictures now.  I can’t imagine not working at the art of photography.

I have also – done three community writing projects, mentored kids at camps, given workshops, tutored, been involved in my kids schools  and lives and learnt heaps about myself and others.  I say this because I know many other so called stay at home mums, like myself  who don’t stay at home at all.   We are based at home but we actively contribute to the community and our families.

I have been both supermum and stay at home Mum and somewhere at the end of all of the being wife and mother I am June who loves to write, take photographs and make digital arts.  I recognise that I am so privileged to have a chance to get to know myself and others in my six years of so called slowing down (:

I hope the world will accept me for who I am and what I can offer and I am glad to be finding my way with the help of other bloggers and through the opportuntiies writing has offered me.

The time of reinvention is here!  It is both exhilirating and scary, as my children move out into the world, so does their Mum.  How many other Mums and people out there are going through this journey?

Would love to hear from you!

(c) June Perkins

Wonder a Day 24: Australians

Australia a home for all people, but looking for peace within with some of its first people.

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Travelling overseas we find out what others truly think of us, and sometimes it might shock us to know we are seen as a racist nation when we think of all nations within our nation.
australiaday first day perkins 237-007Small country towns have made a place for all peoples, and striven hard to attract, employ and make sure they feel at home in their new homes far from their birthlands.

australiaday first day perkins 012-007But there is a space for coming together for all peoples, and despite the debates many make a place for friendship with all peoples, first in this land, latest in this land.  The land does not discriminate but offers up its surface for all to walk on, and its beauty for all to enjoy.

DSC_0811And there are those who serve quietly and humbly – thinking of others before themselves. They are ever searching for the happiness of others, and in that is their own.  They show all of us how to be and inspire us to rethink who we are as Australians, as world citizens.

australiaday first day perkins 020And the youth will make a new future, reach out across all boundaries and take up our cultures within culture and meld it into something we don’t  yet fully know, or let’s hope so because no person, no cultures, no culture can reach perfection and understanding is the beginning of the journey for perfection.  It’s alright to have a good laugh along the way.  Joy makes us think more clearly – make our futures more dearly.

My wonder for today – Australians, and the Australia that could be.

(c) June Perkins

Wonder a Day 22: Aboriginal Women’s Writing – Fighting for Literacy and Literary Freedom

Aboriginal Women’s Writing – June Perkins

Extract — AWW’s first guest blog: “Aboriginal Women Writers – The fight for Literacy and Literary Freedom and a true name calling” by Dr June Perkins

My search to understand and identify Aboriginal women’s literature began naively and in earnest with a letter to Oodgeroo (Noonuccal).* I was probably twenty and had heard a lot about her work in Aboriginal people gaining citizenship rights and was keen to interview her for an article I was writing. Instead she said I should contact younger people like Lydia Miller(Kuku Yalanji) as she was more contemporary than Oodgeroo.

I was interested in Aboriginal women’s literature because as a girl (Bush Mekeo/Írish/French Australian background) I wanted to find out about the stories of the original people of the land I lived in and see if they had anything in common with my own experience.

I had forward-thinking teachers who had shared the sorry history of the treatment of Aboriginal people in Tasmania and so-called Aboriginal issues were not invisible to me. From a young age I was mistaken as Aboriginal and subsequently subjected to a lot of racist comments at school.

This made me both upset to be name-called and curious – and I was lucky to have people around me, including an Aboriginal girl from Mornington Island who was boarding and went to my school, and another classroom friend, to see that Aboriginal people were in many ways just like everyone else and I wondered why they were so put down.

They were not token friends, but very caring girls, and the girl from Mornington told the best ghost stories! Actually, come to think of it, my friends were all a mini united nations and we didn’t fit any moulds of what you might call “mainstream”.

Many of the early writers like Oodgeroo and, with respect, the recently passed away Ruby Langford Ginibi (Bundjalung), began with a sense of connection to place, people and history. They wore the mantle of spokesperson for the cause of Aboriginal rights to be respected, acknowledged and treated the same as any other human being because they had realised the pen is a mighty tool in the fight for justice. There are so many writers that should be mentioned, like Jackie Huggins (Bidjara), a fearless academic and wonderful writer who wrote an innovative biography with her mother, Aunty Rita, who is still an active intellectual teaching in the university system.

For Langford-Ginibi, incarceration, justice and identity formed the themes of her life writing whilst for Oodgeroo, a poetry exploring people, place and environment was a major concern. Oodgeroo was also noted for her friendship with Judith Wright.

This fight for justice was often a heavy burden to bear, and it could have led to the pigeonholing of Aboriginal women’s writing, to be eternally from the fringes and fixated upon the human rights agenda, but instead they became the footsteps to follow in and add to. Aboriginal English made its way into Aboriginal literature so that writers were not forced to simply fit the canon of other Australian literature, but this in itself was a battle.

Now many years later, and having been mentored at a playwrights conference by Lydia, a wonderful actress, I am happy to say that I always look out for up-and-coming Aboriginal women writers. For me they can write about any topic from Murri lives in the Bush, like Vivienne Cleven‘s, Bitin’Back, to an Aboriginal woman bureaucrat in Paris like Anita Heiss (Wiradjuri). The beauty of Aboriginal women’s writing is its current diversity and moving away from set definitions.

There are many Aboriginal women writers in Australia who created the opportunities for the writers of today – not only Anita Heiss, but also Kerry Reed-Gilbert (Wiradjuri), Alexis Wright (Waanyi Nation), and Jennifer Martiniello (Arrente/Chinese/Anglo-celtic). I was happy to interview several of them when I was a uni student and to learn not only about their writing but their philosophies on life. They are different and yet many maintain close friendships with each other – Anita and Kerry are in constant touch, and another friend of theirs working in radio put me onto interviewing them. They encourage each other and the new generation of up and coming Aboriginal writers, both men and women.

Today’s writers, whilst they will often tackle identity and the continuing need for the recognition of Aboriginal people in the constitution, have created a literary freedom for a future generation of writers. They have been able to strive for a unity in their diversity of genres and voices – and have asked to be recognised as a non-homogenous group.

They are happy to share their perspective as specific to a language group, urban or rural environment – and have pulled apart what it means to be black, Aboriginal, Indigenous and an Aboriginal woman. Aileen Moreton Robinson (Geonpul) and Leah Purcell (Goa Gungurri Wakka Wakka) both have works that tackle that diversity and need not to be subsumed into other’s agendas. Purcell’s Black Chick’s Talking is a remarkable set of interviews with a diverse group of creative Aboriginal women – which has an accompanying film, paintings and explores Aboriginal women’s creativity.

For the Rest of this post please go to  the Australian Women’s Writers site

(c) June Perkins