Read a Blak Book lately? Clare Wright on Kate Howarth’s Ten Hail Marys
The first Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival, Blak & Bright, runs this weekend from 18 to 21 February. To celebrate the festival, we asked writers to share a story about a Blak book that means something special to them. Today, 2014 Stella Prize-winning author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Clare Wright, discusses Kate Howarth’s Ten Hail Marys.
One of the things I enjoy most about reading works by Indigenous authors is that all my assumptions and preconceived notions are tested, even (or perhaps especially) the ones I didn’t even know I harboured.
Ten Hail Marys by Kate Howarth is no exception. Take the cover: a little girl dressed in pure-as-snow white Holy Communion clothes, a long white veil fluttering in the breeze. Now for the content: a poor girl’s life in Sydney’s slums and rural New South Wales, jostled between relatives – some abusive, others compassionate – all powerless to mitigate Howarth’s bitter, traumatic battle to keep the son born from her teenage pregnancy and incarceration in a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s.
How can Howarth’s Indigineity be both central and peripheral to her story? Is her story about being an Aboriginal Australian? No, not really, I don’t think. Is her story about growing up and struggling for justice, dignity and compassion in a nation rife with discrimination and vilification – racial, gendered, classist and otherwise? Yes, absolutely. Ten Hail Mary’s made me laugh, cry and THINK. Memoir at its confronting, revealing best.
– Clare Wright
The Stella Prize is proud to support the Sistas Are Doing It… panel at Blak & Bright, held on Saturday 20 February 12.15–1.15pm. Featuring Tammy Anderson, Anita Heiss, and Kate Howarth and moderated by Ellen van Neerven. Tickets are free, but please book here.