Sunday 5 July 2020

My Place by Sally Morgan

My Place by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press) PB RRP $23:00 ISBN: 9781925816761

Reviewed by Jeffery E Doherty

My Place is a great Australian classic, one of the best loved biographies of Aboriginal Australia ever written. It has now been adapted for younger readers. From the blurb: ‘Sally Morgan always wondered about her family: who they were; where they came from; what they were hiding. She asked questions but received few answers. So, Sally travelled to her grandmother’s birthplace. What started as a tentative search for information, became an extraordinary pilgrimage that would change their lives forever.’

My Place is a search by the author for identity and belonging. The dedication to her family sums up the essence of the book. “How deprived we would have been if we had been willing to let things stay as they were. We would have survived, but not as a whole people. We would have never known our place.”

Sally’s story begins in the mid 1950’s in Perth, Western Australia, as a five-year-old, visiting her father in hospital. All through her childhood, she had questions for her mother and grandmother about their family. Questions like, why did Nan hide whenever she bought friends home after school. Over the years she received lots of evasion and very few answers. This emotive, often heart-wrenching and beautifully written book explores Sally’s search for answers about her heritage. It took her entire childhood, through her university years and into adulthood before she found the answers to her identity. My Place not only tells her own story, but explores the story of her great uncle, her mother and grandmother, giving the reader a glimpse of the inequality and hardships faced by the aboriginal people. What she finally discovered was a rich heritage and the sense of belonging she had been searching for her entire life. She found her place.

I usually read books as an escape from the real world, and it is rare that I read non-fiction or biographies for pleasure. This is not a book I would have chosen to read. I am so glad that Claire from Fremantle Press sent this book to me for review. Not only is it, the sharing of a touching and emotional journey of discovery, it resonates with me on a personal level. I was in my late twenties when I discovered my own aboriginal heritage. Reading My Place has made me even more determined to delve deeper into the rich culture I missed out on as a child. My Place was originally published as three separate books in 1987. It remains highly relevant today. 

This adapted version combines the three books into one volume. I highly recommend this wonderful biography for both adults and younger readers.

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