The Stella Interviews: Jackie Huggins & Ngaire Jarro
Congratulations on being longlisted for the 2023 Stella Prize! What does it mean to you to be included on the list?
It is indeed a great honour to have been longlisted for the Stella Prize. In writing our father’s book, we hoped not only to reclaim his and our family story, but the often unheard narratives of the experiences of other Indigenous servicemen. This adds to a wider appreciation of Indigenising Australian military history.
We feel humble to have made this very important and timely contribution to the nation building, truth telling and voice conversations currently happening in our country.
What would you say are some of the central ambitions or themes of your work?
To highlight our Father’s life and experiences which was unknown to us growing up. He was a POW on the notorious Thai/Burma Railway. This was also about Indigenising our military history which has been neglected in Australian history books. It serves as a record, not only for our family but for the nation.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing and researching your book?
This started during Covid when much time was in lockdown. We collaborated at our homes to strategise the outline and stories of the book. Whilst we had our late Mother’s stories of Jack Huggins and that of other people who knew him, this was supplemented by other records such as military, war, defence, hospital, diaries, and personal letters from his comrades both in war and at home. Research was undertaken at the Australian War Memorial, State Libraries, and Museums.
How long did it take you from start to finish?
From start to finish our writing took one year. This was due to Covid restrictions and focus on the work at hand. We were keen to get this delivered before Anzac Day 2022 and fortunately it was published on 1 April 2022.
What was it like to work together on this book?
Jackie is experienced in writing in journals, articles, books etc. She has two books previously. Ngaire is a first time co-author. As sisters we’re intimate but found out many things we did not know which bought us closer together. Process and editing was smooth and timelines met.
Are there any particular books or authors that have inspired your writing?
Firstly Auntie Rita, Rita and Jackie Huggins, ASP Canberra (1994) – our mother’s biography inspired us and encouraged us to write the book about our Father. Early texts for Jackie were ones by Ruby Langford, bell hooks and other biographies. Ngaire enjoys biography and non-fiction books also.
What’s on your reading pile at the moment?
Jackie has a huge reading pile to get through but is currently reading Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang. Ngaire is reading Dear Son by Thomas Mayor.
Find out more about Jackie Huggins and Ngaire Jarro’s 2023 Stella Prize longlisted book, Jack of Hearts: QX11594.