On Writing The Memoir
by Anita Heiss on 27 March 2012
Many people have commented to me about writing a memoir at such a young age (yes, 43 years is still considered young!). In my case, the story of my identity was not something that was going to change as I got older, but the need for it to be told had proved more necessary in recent years.
I had specific reasons for penning this book. I wanted to demonstrate that we as Aboriginal people have our own forms of self-identification and self-representation. And just like my adult novels of recent years (NOT MEETING MR RIGHT, AVOIDING MR RIGHT , MANHATTAN DREAMING and PARIS DREAMING), AM I BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU? is a statement that regardless of where we live we are strong in our identity, and it is one of the few things that can never be taken from us – like governments took away our children, our rights land, and most recently the rights to manage our own incomes in the Northern Territory.
My own story as told in this memoir challenges the stereotypes often perpetuated through media and embraced by Australians more generally, and in place AM I BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU? offers alternative realities of being Aboriginal today – in all it’s positive, successful, loving glory.
Some may feel that the title AM I BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU? is a provocation, but the work is actually designed as a tool to make the reader think, engage and come to better understand Australia’s First Peoples from a different perspective to most of those offered in the mainstream.
Writing my memoir on Aboriginal identity has been a significant and challenging personal process, but as someone who sees the need for resources in the classroom I also felt a responsibility to provide answers to inquiring minds.
I am a writer, and so my life is about words and the impact they have on individuals, communities and whole societies. I know only too well the power of language and role of books in educating, informing and bringing different communities together, just as the power of the word in any medium – the press, book, poem, play or song – can be someone’s salvation or nemesis.
I hope that by unraveling my own forty-plus years of life as an Aboriginal person that the general Australian reading public and students in our schools and colleges come to appreciate without criticism or concern, the diversity and complexity of Aboriginal identity in the twenty-first century, and that the power of self-identity and representation is a right, as Australians, that we should all enjoy.
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Anita is a writer, poet, activist, social commentator and academic. She is the author of Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon, I'm not racist, but..., My Story: the diary of Mary Talence, Sydney 1937, and a series of chick lit novels including Not Meeting Mr Right, Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming. Her work has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Awards Young People's History Prize and she has won the DEADLY award for writing a number of times. She is a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, but grew up in Matraville, Sydney.