24 June 2022

Dr Anita Heiss' revised memoir to start new important conversations

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Wiradjuri author Anita Heiss

Australian author and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation, Anita Heiss. Photo: Kate Bryan – Ruby Olive.

A proud member of the Wiradjuri nation and a prolific author, Doctor Anita Heiss said writing had given her a voice in a country where First Nations women often go unheard.

The advocate for Indigenous literacy is back in the region for a discussion surrounding her new memoir Am I Black Enough For you – 10 Years On and her 2021 Australian history novel Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: River of Dreams.

Dr Heiss said she was looking forward to heading to her home turf.

“I’m always excited about being back on Wiradjuri Country, so landing into Wagga Wagga then heading to Gundagai and Narrandera is food for my soul,” she said.

Am I Black Enough For You – 10 Years On is the revised edition of Am I Black Enough For You – a deeply personal memoir told in Dr Heiss’ distinctive, wry style.

The author gives a first-hand account of her experiences as a woman with an Aboriginal mother and Austrian father and explains the development of her activist consciousness.

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Dr Heiss said her inspiration for the revised edition came from Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s re-release of Talkin’ Up to the White Woman and Jackie Huggins’ Sister Girl.

The readers can expect many new thoughts and ideas in the revised edition.

“There are chapters on the renaissance in Aboriginal writing, 20 reasons why you should read Blak, a discussion about the Black Lives Matter Movement and the impact of learning my language at 50,” she said.

“I’ve also included the impact of COVID and how running has changed my life for the better. I’ve written about Indigenous excellence and the dreaded menopause.”

Book cover for Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray

The award-winning Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: River of Dreams historic novel cover. Image: Anita Heiss.

Dr Heiss said it took her six months to complete her revised edition while working on her play Tiddas.

The marathoner decided to write Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray: River of Dreams for all Australians to know the story of the Wiradjuri heroes Yarri and Jacky Jacky and what life was like for the Wiradjuri people in the mid-19th century.

“I also wanted to make a small contribution to the maintenance of the language. The novel is a reminder that everywhere you walk in Australia, there is a first language, and it is not English,” she said.

The Lifetime Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation said she had the idea for the story in June 2017.

“From memory, I started learning my language in January 2018 and submitted the first draft to the publisher in April 2020,” she said.

The memoir and the historical novel have been received positively by readers and critics.

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Dr Heiss said her writing process starts with an idea, then she writes a synopsis and maps out the story.

“I’m a plotter and I do my research and then write the first draft,” she said.

Her advice for budding writers is simple – be well-read and write often.

“You need to read widely, across genres, to find your own voice, to see what is in the marketplace and to understand your potential readership and what they read,” she said.

“And write every day.”

Dr Heiss will be at The Curious Rabbit on 26 June from 4 pm to 6 pm for an evening of entertaining interviews and discussions. Tickets are $35 and include shared cheese boards and a glass of champagne upon arrival. To purchase limited tickets, click here.

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