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Review: Wandering Girl (Glenyse Ward)

Title: Wandering Girl
Author: Glenyse Ward
Genre: YA, International Setting
Pages: 183
Rating: 4 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Challenges: Women Unbound (#5); Global Reading (Australia); POC (#10)
Summary: (from the inside flap): Imagine being taken from your parents and placed in an orphanage as a baby; working in a Catholic mission as a child; and becoming a domestic servant as a teenager--all because of the color of your skin.

Imagine getting up before sunrise; sweeping a mile-long driveway; eating off a tin plate and drinking from a tin cup; spraying disinfectant on things you touch (because you touched them); being scolded; ignored, chastised, shouted at; and, after fifteen hours of daily chores, falling asleep exhausted on a shabby cot above a garage--all because of the color of your skin.

Imagine that the year was 1965--and that was real life, not just a story. Imagine that even though this sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen anymore, it was happening--to you. This is a memoir of about strength and courage in the face of dire and adversity.

Review: I had a difficult time getting into this book because the writing really isn't good. I kept wondering why the editors hadn't fixed it, then I realized that I was reading Glenyse's voice in these words and that if they had been polished and fixed I wouldn't truly hear her story the way she tells it. And, after 15 pages or so I got into the rhythm of her style and it worked. This book reminds me of the movie Rabbit Run, which is also about an Aboriginal girl who was taken from her family and put into Australia's orphanage system. Australia had this system in place until the 1970s.

Although this book could be depressing, Ward's attitude makes it not so. No matter what she encounters--from her racist bosses who call her their "dark slave" to sniggers from people in town--Ward manages to keep a positive attitude about her future and sees the funny side of events. What a wonderful attitude to have; it definitely helps her through her experiences.

She also tells us of the people who made her life better with their gestures of kindness: Bill the older worker on the farm; the lady who owned the sweet shop in town; and her fellow orphans who are also placed on farms as servants.

Though Glenyse Ward is not well educated and isn't shown much support or love in her life, she manages to escape her situation, find happiness, have a family, and support them. It takes a strong sense of self, a willingness to take risks, and a positive attitude toward the world to overcome the adversity that she faced.

Have you read any books or seen any movies about Australia or its Aboriginal people?

1 comment

Dorte H said...

I read this one plus a handful more from Australia at the university. I agree that it takes a long time to get into some of the books written by Aboriginees. Their language and style of narration is very different from British literature.