This is the final post in a series I’ve been doing to answer questions I’m often asked about what people can do to support Indigenous books (which is to say books written or co-written by Indigenous people). And I’d like to begin this one with a thank you to bloggers, for two reasons. The first is that I am a YA author and without the blog-o-sphere there would be ludicrously few reviews of YA books in Australia (and virtually none of works by Australian YA writers). The second is that I am conscious of the work that bloggers have already done to draw attention to overlooked books, including those by Indigenous and other diverse writers. But I am going to ask you to do more, for the same reason that you started a book blog in the first place – because you love stories, and there is a whole world out there of Indigenous narratives waiting to be discovered.
1. Review the books! They’ll be harder to find and you probably won’t get review copies in the mail. Works by Indigenous writers are more likely to be published by smaller and specialist presses which do not have the resources of the larger publishers – so sourcing the narratives might well require a trip to the library, borrowing from a friend or spending your own money (if you have some spare!). As to where you can find books by Indigenous writers, here are some suggestions:
a. Check out the catalogues of Indigenous publishers (such as Magabala Books, IAD Press and Aboriginal Studies Press). Move on from there to looking at other publishers and discovering what Indigenous authors they have;
b. Take a look at the Blackwords database on the Austlit site;
c. Find out what Indigenous writing you can access online for free – for example, the Indigenous edition of Westerly, and Writing Black: New Indigenous Writing from Australia.
2. Read the books and encourage others to do so – take part in book challenges that focus on Indigenous writers, or make a challenge of your own.
3. Be conscious of how you review and talk about Indigenous books (and indeed books by other diverse writers). I’ve commented on reviewing Indigenous books in a previous post which can be found here (although I think on the whole bloggers do a pretty good job of judging Indigenous narratives on their own terms and not by preconceived stereotypes of what it is to be Indigenous).
4. Inform yourself about the challenges that face Indigenous writers and diverse writers more generally. Many of the issues in relation to diversity have been highlighted by the We Need Diverse Books campaign in the US and you could start by reading the posts on their tumblr site. As to the challenges facing Indigenous writers in Australia, refer to author websites and interviews – google the names of Indigenous writers and see what we have to say. And take a look at the AIATSIS Guidelines on Ethical Publishing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and their communities and the ‘Who Owns Story?’ presentation by Indigenous lawyer Terri Janke.
5. Be proactive. Give space to Indigenous voices (and other diverse voices). Reach out to publishers and writers and volunteer space for author interviews and guest posts. Beyond that, use social media to raise awareness of Indigenous books and commentary by Indigenous authors. If you see a new release, a review, an author interview – like it, share it, promote it!