Introduction to #TasmanianLitMonth

Written by Bec Taylor

Colonization and genocide, penal colonies, rugged unspoilt wilderness, ferocious and prolonged battles over natural resources, cultural and physical isolation, a tremendous foodie culture, and many weird and wonderful animals. Just some of the pillars of Tasmanian literature that have fascinated and enraptured readers across the world.

Before I begin writing about Tasmanian literature, it is important to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land to which I refer. I would like to pay my respects to the Palawa people, who are the traditional owners of lutruwita/Tasmania. I acknowledge their ongoing connection to this country and their deep knowledge and understanding of its natural systems. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may be reading this. 

“Would you be interested in curating a month of Tasmanian literature for the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative?” asked Karen Van Drie, the Executive Director of GLLI. The offer of delving back into the Australian state of my childhood was too tempting to forgo.

However, as an expat who has lived longer outside of Tasmania than I lived inside, I knew that I would need help showcasing the best of what Tasmania has to offer the literary world.

During #TasmanianLitMonth, creators from across Tasmania, along with regular Tasmanians, will platform their favorite Tasmanian stories as well as spotlighting the ways in which Tasmanian wilderness, history, and politics have shaped the stories that are told.

Arguably Tasmania’s most famous literary export, Richard Flanagan, has two posts dedicated to his work – a review of “The Sound of One Hand Clapping” and the unpacking of a number of his other books, in particular, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”.

The heartbreaking and horrifying history of First Nations genocide, and one man’s journey to seek restoration and reconciliation, is explored by Ian Broinowski. This is juxtaposed with the work of Karen Harrland, a specialist storytelling teacher in a Tasmanian primary school and a review of the gorgeous picture book ‘Sea Country’ by Indigenous elder, Aunty Patsy Cameron.

Tasmanian gothic, and its sister genre Tasmanian crime, are a mainstay of Tasmanian literature. Festival director and author, L.J.M. Owen and multitalented creative Zane Pinner review the work of some of Tasmania’s best and brightest crime and mystery writers.

Many don’t realize the depth of influence Chinese immigrants had on Tasmanian culture and history. Wren Cameron Fraser’s Oyster Girl touches on this, as does the Trail of the Tin Dragon.

Poetry delving into historical events that shaped Tasmania’s psyche is also featured this month, through the work of Cameron Hindrum.

Young adult and middle grade Tasmanian literature gets some time in the GLLI sun, through the work of Lian Tanner and Avery McDougall. Picture books and narrative non-fiction featuring both well-known and obscure Tasmanian animals aimed at our youngest readers are also explored during our month of Tasmanian literature.

Non-fiction doesn’t miss it’s time in the spotlight as we look at the life and work of female Tasmanian academics: Stephanie Cahalan’s biography, “Colour and Movement: The Life of Claudio Alcorso“, an Italian Tasmanian artist, and discovering the history of female convicts and orphans by Dr Dianne Snowden (AM). Eminent scientist Dr Michael Stoddart shares his story of his work in Tasmania and Antarctica.

Looking for something lighter from the Tasmanian writing community? Look no further than the modern realistic fiction of Meg Bignell. Autobiographer and novelist Karen Harrland unpacks her writing process, as does educator and nurturer of new talent, Lyndon Riggall.

Tasmania has a rich tapestry of writing festivals, nurturing and showcasing local talent and welcoming creators from the mainland and abroad. We hear from L.J.M. Owen one of the directors of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival. The various awards celebrated in the state, showcased later this month, is something to behold.

It has been eye-opening to delve back into my childhood home state via literature. The experiences and ideas shared by Tasmanian creators, and about Tasmania, are somehow both unrecognizable and instantly familiar.

I hope you enjoy the month ahead. Get ready to be transported and transfixed at the depth and breadth of talent and voice from this mighty Australian island state.

About guest curator, Bec Taylor

I’m Bec Taylor, the EY3 – Grade 2 cybrarian* at the International School of Beijing, China. I’m a global nomad with Australian roots and a Chinese family home – all my immediate family have lived and worked in Beijing as international school teachers for many, many years.  

Overly enthusiastic about everything especially children’s literature, Australian Rules Football (go Doggies!) and food, glorious food, I am easily bribed with coffee and dark chocolate. I am a passionate advocate of social justice, female financial literacy, and finding ways to tread more lightly on the planet. Alongside the demands of a busy family and professional life, I enjoy cultivating community through volunteer work that focuses on healthy families.

I am the current Chair of the Chinese international schools reading promotion, the Panda Book Awards. Titles chosen for the shortlists of the Panda Book Awards meet selection criteria that focus on social justice, diversity and inclusion by up and coming authors and illustrators from across the world. There is an added spotlight on titles that feature Asian settings, characters or creators. 

Twitter is my favourite professional development space so please come find me there: @becinthelibrary

The educational hills I will die on are:

  • a child’s right to choose what they love to read,
  • there is serious magic in reading aloud,
  • and the belief that schools are happier, more equitable places with better academic outcomes when the properly funded school library is well staffed with qualified, collaborative and passionate professionals.

*a fancy name that formalises and acknowledges the incredible work teacher librarians do each day to find authentic ways to integrate and explore educational technology in order to capture, expand, and enhance student learning.

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