Contemporary History: First Nation Australian Representations in Nanberry: Black Brother White
Keywords:representation, Aboriginalism, Nanberry, Postcolonialism, Clare Bradford, Melissa Lucashenko
Representations of First Nation Australian and Torres Strait Islanders (First Nation Australians) in children’s literature have gone through many changes since the first literature for children published in the late 1800s. These representations often conformed to and perpetuated negative stereotypes that have changed with the social and political landscape. Given the degree of cultural investment in children’s and young adult literature it is important to work towards a landscape in which negative stereotypes give way to representations reflecting deeper inter-cultural understandings. In this context, the analysis of contemporary texts representing First Nation Australians has an important role to play.
This paper analyses Nanberry: black brother white by Jackie French, published in 2011. Nanberry is of interest as it is a contemporary, critically-acclaimed young adult novel. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the representations of the First Nation Australian characters in the novel with reference to analytical frameworks put forward by Bradford (2001) and Lucashenko (2000/2009).
Nanberry introduces alternative narratives about the colonisation of Australia and its impacts by using artistic licence, by the adoption of First Nation Australian perspectives and also the perspectives of other historical figures of whom little to no primary evidence of their lives survives to the present day. Nanberry balances historical research with artistic licence and has an implied young, modern day readership. The intersection of these three factors, has resulted in conflict and incongruities between the characters, the plot and even the cover image. This paper argues that these incongruities and conflicts are highly problematic in relation to the representation of First Nation Australian experience.
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