Many Freo people will remember reading Sally Morgan’s My Place when it was published over 30 years ago, and now Fremantle Press have taken the initiative to produce this excellent, adapted version for younger readers.
Reading it with an audience of children in mind, I was again enthralled by Sally’s strong writing and imagery in this memoir which begins with her 5 year-old child’s voice speaking of being in an alien hospital atmosphere, marked by “The Doors” — “big, chunky … thick glass inserts … heavy brass hinges … covered in green linoleum” — and through which she must pass to see her sick Dad: “There was no magic in The Doors, I knew what was behind them.”
That young Sally doesn’t know her family’s past, is the centre of this narrative about finding oneself and gaining strength from the knowledge of who you are and the wider story to which you belong. But it is also profoundly a story about a child growing up, being at school, experiencing change and, for Sally, becoming a writer and an artist.
Much of the story is told from a young person’s perspective as Sally tries to make sense of adult behaviours, conversations and misleading information. In this sense the girl that was Sally is engaged in unravelling a mystery and, as most know, the mystery concerns the previously hidden story of of her own indigenous heritage, as one of the Palyku people of the Pilbara.
All children (7 years and up) will enjoy this terrific and engaging story that introduces them gently to some of the complexities of Western Australian history in a way which may encourage them to take an interest in the past.
The strong narrative of this story has the capacity, like all good literature, to sweep us into its world as its characters, dialogue and actions jump off the page and into our lives, changing who we are forever.
To finish I’ll give a quick excerpt that not only features Freo but also shows the humour that features throughout the book.
Sally knows by this time that her Nan is indigenous (and, like my own elderly mother, feels the cold!):
“… Nan was anxious about the cold. I pulled a clean men’s singlet over her head, then a fleecy nightgown and a bedjacket. While she pulled a South Fremantle football beanie down over her head, I covered her feet with two pairs of woollen socks. After that, she wound two long scarves around her neck.
‘Are you sure you’ll be warm enough?’ I asked sarcastically.
‘I think you had better help me into that cardigan,’ she answered after a second’s thought, ‘better safe than sorry.’”
Definitely a book for the Xmas stocking!
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* This review was written by Christine Owen