Apparently, the moment I was born, she anxiously asked her mother, “Well, what is it?” To which my grandmother replied, “It’s a boy!” My mum was horrified, but the doctor interjected and explained I was indeed a girl. My mum was relieved. I wish I could have spoken on behalf of myself back then and there; I could have avoided a lot of issues down the track.
Nevo Zisin was born with a girl’s body, to a mother desperately hoping for a daughter. But before they had reached school, Nevo was convinced they were a boy, and wanted to dress in boy’s clothes, and be referred to as ‘he’. Growing up in a traditional Jewish community, this presented difficulties both within their own family, at school, and beyond. At 14, feeling pressured to identify with how they felt, Nevo came out as a lesbian, but was still not convinced this was the right term for how they felt. At 18, they announced their intention to transition to being male, and soon after began hormone therapy, and then to plan for chest reduction surgery. By the age of twenty, they had realised that they were neither male nor female, and now identify as nonbinary transgender.
Finding Nevo is an honest, enlightening story of one person’s quest to understand who they are, and to overcome the prejudices and pressures which that can entail. Nevo is honest and open, offering readers the chance to understand the issues faced by Nevo, and also by other nonbinary young people. As they say (Nevo’s preferred pronoun is they/their), it is unusual to write an autobiography at the age of 20, but Nevo’s willingness to do so will help to educate and inform people of all all ages and gender identities.
An absorbing, open, book.
Finding Nevo, by Nevo Zisin
Black Dog Books, 2017
It’s late, just before lights-out, and we’re all tucked up in bed. My book is facedown in my lap, untouched. It’s too cold to read; it is the dead of winter, my breath hangs like mist in front of my face. A few beds down, Ronnie is sniping across the aisle at Kendall – ‘Hey KFC. Albino pubes. Have you wet yourself tonight?’ – and Portia, in the bed beside her, laughs.
A boarding school in the bush, where students can learn resilience and confidence, and gain physical fitness and endurance, sounds like a wonderful thing. But when the level of supervision is low, and bullying behaviour is largely unchecked, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Rebecca Starford spent a year in such a boarding school when she was fourteen. At times one of the bullies, at others a victim, the decisions she made and the things she endured and witnessed, shaped the woman she became. In Bad Behaviour she presents an honest memoir of that time and of her years beyond boarding school as she struggled to reconcile both her time at boarding school, and the self she had become, including coming to terms with her sexuality.
Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School is, from the opening pages, confronting, but it is also a story of triumph, with happier moments and a level of honesty and openness which is utterly readable. Although billed as a memoir for adults, it would also be suitable for older teens.
Gripping, moving and extraordinary honest.
Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School, by Rebecca Starford
Allen & Unwin, 2015
Afterwards, standing in front of my smashed car, the attending policeman told me, ‘You should have hit the fakking thing. You shoulda just hit the fakking thing.’ But all I could think was, ‘No I couldn’t. I’m an immigrant and I don’t think it would look very good if I’d killed your national emblem.’ It seemed like the sort of thing that might come up in my citizenship exam later.
As a child, Sami Shah didn’t picture a future for himself which involved relocating to rural Australia, nor did he see himself as a stand up comedian. But after growing up in Karachi and studying in the United States, he gradually found that Pakistan was not the place he wanted to raise his daughter. After saving and planning for three years, he and his wife and child found themselves living in Northam, a town they’d never even heard of, and trying to make a go of life as migrants.
I, Migrant: A Comedian’s Journey from Karachi to the Outback does much more than trace Shah’s journey to Australia. From his childhood, through to his years living in the United States – including how it was to be a Pakistani Muslim in the US after 9/11 – and his adult life back in Pakistan, the reader is privy to his life, his motivations, and his eyes and lows. We also see his development as a comedian – both in Pakistan, and as he re-establishes himself in Australia. Significantly, we get an insider’s view of life in Pakistan, and the life of a migrant in Australia.
Shah’s voice is humorous, but it is also honest and very insightful, so that readers will laugh, cry, squirm uncomfortably and applaud. Mostly, though, you’ll come to feel like you know Sami Shah – and feel so much richer for that friendship.
I, Migrant: A Comedian’s Journey from Karachi to the Outback, by Sami Shah
Allen & Unwin, 2014
Available from good bookstores and online.
This is a story about life and death, a memoir based on a part of my history about which I never imagined writing. But loss has driven me to try to find answers in what remains, to airlift myself to a place that serves me better than helplessness and misery. To reach out. This is my love letter to what lives on beyond the devastation.
The child of Greek immigrants and raised in Collingwood and Doncaster, Mary Coustas grew up to become one of Australia’s best loved television actresses, particularly for her portrayal of Effie in Acropolis Now. Now, in her autobiographical book, she shows another side from her funny girl image.
All I Know shares Coustas’ life story, with a focus on the loss of her much-loved father, and her attempts to fall pregnant after meeting the love of her life, George. Coustas is honest and open,at times funny and often rawly heartbreaking.
Fans of Coustas will love the chance to get to know her more intimately, and those who have struggled with infertility may find hope in her story.
All I Know, by Mary Coustas
Allen & Unwin, 2014
Available from good bookstores or online.
28th October 1916.
Oh a soldier’s life is a beauty in such weather but as soon as we get back into dry billets we forget all the hardships. It’ powerful in what good spirits the boys keep. They laugh and joke over it all, as if it was the fun of the world.
Archibald Albert Barwick was 24 years old when war broke out in 1914 and he joined the AIF. Leaving his job as manager of a sheep property in NSW, he trained with the expeditionary force in the 1st Battalion and travelled first to Egypt, then Gallipoli and later the Western Front. Along the way he rose to the rank of Sergeant, was injured three times and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Significantly, he also wrote prolifically, filling sixteen diaries over the course of the war, detailing his experiences and insights.
In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick offers Barwick’s diary to contemporary readers. Condensed from the initial 400 000 words to around 130 000 words in order to make it manageable, the writing is otherwise only lightly edited, so that the sense of Barwick’s personality shines through, managing to be humorous, honest and heart-wrenching by turns, so that the reader can journey with him in a very personal way.
Of interest to historians of all levels, this is also a valuable read for any Australian to get first hand insight into Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and its impact.
In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick
Harper Collins, 2013
Available from good bookstores or online.
n her first book there’s a Bear in There Merridy Eastman shared her life away from stage and the small screen working as a receptionist in a brothel. Her second book Ridiculous Expectations shared her story of travelling to England for a book tour only to meet and fall in love with a handsome German named Tom. Now, in her third book, the story continues.
Right. This was it. There was no turning back now, I thought, glancing at the tall German sitting by my side as we sped down the A92 towards Munich. here began my new life in Bavaria , with a man I’d met eight months earlier on a jetty in Lymington.
‘Your thing is on inside out, he’d said then, gently touching the sleeve of my cardigan.
In her first book there’s a Bear in There Merridy Eastman shared her life away from stage and the small screen working as a receptionist in a brothel. Her second book Ridiculous Expectations shared her story of travelling to England for a book tour only to meet and fall in love with a handsome German named Tom. Now, in her third book, the story continues, with her arrival to live in Bavaria, four months pregnant and unable to speak German.
How Now Brown Frau does pick up where the second book left off, which will delight fans of the previous books, but is also self contained enough to read on its own. Eastman is forthright and funny, sharing her experiences with an honesty which is delightful, and often laugh out loud funny.
Witty, clever and true.
How Now Brown Frau, by Merridy Eastman
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book is available from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Geoff Huegill is one of Australia’s best known and best loved swimmers. From the age of four until he was 26, Huegill lived and breathed swimming, training daily and winning an impressive array of medals including Olympic silver and bronze, five world champion titles, eight world records and five Commonwealth Games gold medals. But in 2005, exhausted from the years of training…
What I was attempting was nothing less than rebuilding my credibility, and the only way I was going to succeed was with a mammoth effort.
Geoff Huegill (widely nicknamed Skippy by friends and fans) is one of Australia’s best known and best loved swimmers. From the age of four until he was 26, Huegill lived and breathed swimming, training daily and winning an impressive array of medals including Olympic silver and bronze, five world champion titles, eight world records and five Commonwealth Games gold medals. But in 2005, exhausted from the years of training, and suffering depression, he quit. Two years later, having gained 45 kilos in weight and hit rock bottom, Huegill returned to swimming, determined to regain his fitness and get his life back on track. In 2010 he returned to Commonwealth Games glory, with two golds and a silver. More importantly, though, he had turned his life around – proving to himself and the world that he could follow his dreams.
Be Your Best is Huegill’s story. Starting with his childhood and early involvement in swimming , through to the sudden death of his father when Huegill was 12, and he highs of his swimming career, the book then examines what went wrong before moving on to how he managed to get his life back on track. A special section in the middle of the book also details Huegill’s Be Your Best principles, which he promotes with his business partner Keith Staggers.
The text is written in Huegill’s honest, straightforward voice. He admits his failings and is honest but not boastful about his strengths. Coloured photography throughout the book also charts his story.
Fans will love this offering.
Be Your Best, by Geoff Huegill
Ebury Press, 2011
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Niromi is the older daughter in a middle class Sri Lankan family, living a life of stability and privilege. She attends a good school and her family hope she will become a doctor. But around her, there are rumblings between the ruling Sinhala and the minority Tamil…
Concealed by the shadow of a large water tank, I sat on the heel of my right foot. The air was sweetly pungent with the smell of ripening bananas and palmyra fruit. Cicadas buzzed relentlessly as a blazing sun rose to evaporate the condensed dew in the fields we had just scurried through. The small sparsely-populated village was luscious with its manioc and banana plantations, palm trees, and water birds in flight. But all this was lost on our small platoon of twenty-two; over half of us young women. Appreciation of beauty is a luxury of the untroubled mind.
Niromi is the older daughter in a middle class Sri Lankan family, living a life of stability and privilege. She attends a good school and her family hope she will become a doctor. But around her, there are rumblings between the ruling Sinhala and the minority Tamil. Until now Niromi hasn’t really been aware of difference, but once she begins to look, her world changes. As she moves through her teenage years, she feels the injustices more and more until finally she sees that the only way to move forward to peace and equality, is via the Tamil Tigers. This puts her at odds with her family and many of her local community, but she feels that if she is to hold her head high, she must actively fight.
Tamil Tigress is not just a picture of one young woman’s fight, but of a culture torn apart by differences. Many in the minority Tamil communities feel pressure and there are many groups that spring up to fight for equality. But while they are united in feeling oppressed, there is no unity in their approach. This leads to infighting and fighting between freedom groups. In the middle is a teenager, passionate about her country and her people, but confused by the infighting, and horrified by the deaths of her friends and close allies. Sri Lanka appears a beautiful country with a rich history, but when even its name is perceived as an attempt to ‘de-Tamil’ its legacy, it must have some way to go to achieve lasting peace. An interesting, and deeply personal memoir of a life in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Tigress: My Story as a Child Soldier in Sri Lanka’s Bloody Civil War, Niromi de Soyza
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.
If you are a parent, teacher or librarian with a love of children’s books, chances are that you are well familiar with the illustrative brilliance of Ron Brooks. As the illustrator of some of Australia’s (and the world’s) best loved picture books, including John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat , Old Pig and Fox , Brooks has captured the hearts of readers for 40 years. In Drawn from the Heart, however, Brooks shares far more than his illustration work with readers.
Reading this memoir is an intense experience. On the face of it, this is a book which traces Brooks’ life through childhood, study, marriage and raising a family, whilst also detailing the process of illustrating his various works. However, it quickly becomes clear to the reader that this is much more. This is a story into which the reader is drawn. Brooks is honest and intimate, creating a sense that he is telling the tale just over a cup of tea across a well-worn kitchen table. The reader is invited to cheer, to smile, to weep and mourn with Brooks. This is definitely not a dry-eye book.
There is lots of factual information imparted – the detail of the creation and publication process of each of Brooks’ picture books is fascinating – but at the same time you are left a real sense of Ron Brooks as a person of great intensity.
A must read for anyone with a passion for children’s books and illustration, this is also simply a wonderful read for any human being.
Drawn from the Heart: A Memoir, by Ron Brooks
Allen & Unwin, 2010
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews
Jacki Weaver has been entertaining Australian audiences for more than forty years, ever since scoring her first big role as Cinderella at age fifteen. Gough Whitlam once referred to her as an Australian National Treasure, Les McDonald once called her a Gay Icon and the Sydney Morning Heraldcalled her a Household Name. Whether she’s any of these, Jacki Weaver has certainly achieved wide recognition and great popularity in that time, as a star of Australian stage and screen.
In Much Love, Jac she shares her life in a frank account of her ups and downs. Through her five marriages (and numerous other relationships), her professional highs and lows, personal challenges and triumphs, Weaver speaks to the reader in a chatty, natural voice which makes the reader feel she is there talking across the kitchen table. She is honest about and unapologetic for her life – she simply tells it as she remembers it, with the disclaimer that she admits that, as a memoir, there are people and events not touched on, for various reasons.
This is a highly readable memoir of a fascinating life.
Much Love, Jac, by Jacki Weaver
Allen & Unwin, 2005