About the author
Dr Anita Heiss is a member of the Wiradjuri Nation, and an award-winning author of 18 books. She is an international speaker with a background in Australian First Nations literature calling her audiences to action on issues that she is passionate about. She is a board member of University of Queensland Press, Aboriginal Art Co and the National Justice Project. Anita is a Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland and an Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the GO Foundation. Her play Tiddas will premier with La Boite Theatre in 2022 and her latest novel is Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray.
About the book
The powerful Murrumbidgee River surges through town leaving death and destruction in its wake. It is a stark reminder that while the river can give life, it can just as easily take it away.
Wagadhaany is one of the lucky ones. She survives. But is her life now better than the fate she escaped? Forced to move away from her miyagan, she walks through each day with no trace of dance in her step, her broken heart forever calling her back home to Gundagai.
When she meets Wiradyuri stockman Yindyamarra, Wagadhaany’s heart slowly begins to heal. But still, she dreams of a better life, away from the degradation of being owned. She longs to set out along the river of her ancestors, in search of lost family and country. Can she find the courage to defy the White man’s law? And if she does, will it bring hope … or heartache?
Set on timeless Wiradyuri country, where the life-giving waters of the rivers can make or break dreams, and based on devastating true events, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) is an epic story of love, loss and belonging.
Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is inspired by the true story of Wiradyuri men – Yarri and Jacky Jacky – who saved the lives of sixty people during a flood that took place in 1852. It places the remarkable fictionalised story of Wagadhaany at the centre, allowing her sensitivity, grit, and strength to shine through on every page.
Anita Heiss’s novel is written for all ages, and has a timeless quality, and yet it grapples with complex material, presenting an extraordinary portrait of what it means when a white woman’s desire to be seen as ‘good’ outstrips her loyalty to her Black friend. Heiss explores the contours of good intentions without bitterness or rancour. With a keen eye for detail, Heiss writes with poignancy and tenderness about Wagadhaany’s love affair and her journey to motherhood. In charting Wagadhaany’s struggles to keep her family together, and return to her home in Gundagai, Heiss has created a new national heroine.
Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray belongs in the library of all Australians, no matter their age. Heiss has chronicled the story of one woman’s fight to maintain her dignity in a dramatically changing world. In so doing, Heiss has written a story for her people certainly, but she has also written a story for the nation.
“There are books you encounter as an adult that you wish you could press into the hands of your younger self. Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is one of those books…” – Beejay Silcox, The Guardian
“Celebrating family, love, and connection to the land, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray is a profoundly moving showcase of Heiss’ skill for crafting stories and relationships.” – Jodie Sloan, The AU Review
“We need more of these stories; more novels that reflect Australia’s colonial past through the eyes of First Nations women.” – Chris Gordon, Readings online
Listen to Anita Heiss discuss Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray on ABC Radio’s Afternoons with Jacinta Parsons
Watch ‘Aboriginal writing: literature as a political tool’ via Allen & Unwin
Listen to Anita Heiss discuss Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray with Paul Barclay at Melbourne Writers Festival