This paper will discuss my recently published novel about family and Australia, Finding Theodore and Brina (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2001). Opening up the vaults of family is a risky enough business; when it uncovers contested sites of race and oppression it can become hard to explain why you are doing it in the first place. I have milestone years: middle points and ends of centuries to keep me company in my family story.
In the middle of the nineteenth century my family first came to Australia: one as a convict, one a free settler. By the end of that century they had been pilloried in their outpost of Westralia; written out of the picture of White Australia, compromised by ideas of Federation. And in the next near-middle, one family member internalised her shame about her Jewish heritage and turned into a feral fascist, publicly anti-semitic, a member of the Australia First Movement. By the time I come into the picture with pen poised at the next end, I am accompanied by a national mood of racial disaffection and joined by a member of the federal parliament who wants to remember my great aunt and her call to Australia First. I spill the beans on family, those who came before me. Their diaspora, my national identity. Will I be forgiven for my transgressions?
My presentation will investigate some of these conundrums with discussion and readings from the book.
New: 30 August, 2001 | Now: 6 May, 2015