9 Books By First Nations Authors to Add to Your Must-Read List

Bed Threads. acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land where we work, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. We pay respect to Elders - past, present and emerging - and recognise their connections to land, sea and community, with knowledge and stories that have been handed down since time immemorial. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture today.

The tradition of storytelling among our First Nations people here in Australia is pretty much as old as time itself. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been custodians of our country for roughly 75,000 years, and have been telling the stories of this land for that long, too.

Today, First Nations authors continue that rich tradition of storytelling for modern audiences. Here are a few of our favourites books by talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers to add to your reading list.

9 Books by First Nations Authors to Read Now

1. The Yield by Tara June Winch

We’ve been raving about this book for years now, so much so that we stock it here on the Bed Threads online store. The Miles Franklin Award Winning novel – also the winner of the NSW Premier’s Literature Award and shortlisted for the Stella Prize – is her third book, a tale of a dying Indigenous language and the family trying to keep it alive, set against the backdrop of the environmental crisis in Australia. An urgent story, written in the incredible prose of Winch, a Wiradjuri author, this novel is one of our favourites.

2. Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko 

Like The Yield, Too Much Lip is a multiple award-winning novel, clinching the 2019 Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Stella Prize. Lucashenko, a Goorie author of Bundjalung heritage, is one of our most celebrated First Nations writers, and this tale showcases her sardonic wit and clever turn of phrase.

The book follows Kerry Salter, a wise-cracking woman who returns home to her community and her country when she learns her beloved Pop is dying only to rip open some doors she had spent years trying to keep closed. It’s a tale of family and heart and connection that will make you laugh out loud and cry in equal measures.

3. Carpentaria by Alexis Wright

Epic and all encompassing in scope, Carpentaria is an expansive novel with a huge story at its centre. Peopled by a diverse range of characters, the story follows two sparring families up in the Gulf of Carpentaria in north western Queensland and their relationships with each other and the white officials in the coastal town of Desperance. Waanyi nation author Wright has a lyrical style, which she blends in this extraordinary book with folklore, fairytales, music and philosophy. The result is a book that will blow you away.

4. Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

Noongar author Claire G. Coleman has made a name for herself for her thought-provoking stories that both shine a spotlight on, and reimagine, Australia’s colonial history. Terra Nullius, her debut novel, was highly acclaimed upon its release in 2018. The book posed the question: what if Australia went through colonialism again in the near future? What would we say about the process of colonisation then? Terra Nullius is an incredible book that will have you thinking long after you turn the final page.

5. That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott

Back in the 1800s, a community of Indigenous Australians and white settlers met for the first time in a small whaling community on the coast of Western Australia. This is the story told in That Deadman Dance, one of the most celebrated books by a First Nations author, a sweeping historical story that follows the main character Bobby Wabalanginy through the arc of his life. Scott, who hails from the Noongar people, is a phenomenal writer and this book shimmers with descriptions of the landscape of West Australia, its animals and plants, its wide ocean. A book to lose yourself in.

6. Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss

As the author of several novels, including a gaggle of very successful and readable romance novels with Indigenous women at the centre, Anita Heiss, of the Wiradjuri nation, is one of the most recognisable First Nations writers in Australia.

Any one of her books is worth including on this list, but we’ve chosen the 2018 essay collection Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia. Why? Because in it, Heiss has collected pieces from writers as diverse as Adam Goodes, Amy McQuire, Miranda Tapsell and more, all of whom share their very personal stories and experiences. It is a must-read book.

7. Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Considered a classic and a must read title ever since its publication in 2014, Dark Emu is a non fiction book that celebrates the role that First Nations people have played in the history of agriculture in Australia.

A bestseller and a prize winner when it was published, Dark Emu has also been published as a book for children called Young Dark Emu in 2019, also penned by Yuin and Boonwurrung author Bruce Pascoe. What both these books seek to do is question the accounts in history books of the colonial era and present a new story about what life really looked like for Indigenous Australians throughout the past.

8. The White Girl by Tony Birch 

Written in 2019, The White Girl is a tale of the stolen generation, told through the eyes of Odette Brown, desperate to protect her granddaughter Sissy from those who want to remove her from the family. Tony Birch is an award-winning Indigenous author and The White Girl is one of his best books, a searing and heartbreaking tale that shines a spotlight on one of the darkest corners of Australian history.

9. Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson

Released just last year, Song of the Crocodile is the debut novel by Yuwaalaraay author Nardi Simpson. Telling the story of four generations of First Nations people, living in a small community on the outskirts of a rural town, this book is written with a poetic lyricism and a tenderness to the storytelling. Simpson is also a PhD candidate in musical composition and it shows. She has an ear for language and words that is truly musical. 

Celebrate NAIDOC Week and follow these 11 inspiring First Nation artists on Instagram.

 

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